Astronomy Picture of the Day
August 11, 2015

The Water of the Great Valles Marineris Canyon System - Coprates Chasma (CTX Frame)
The Water of the Great Valles Marineris Canyon System - Coprates Chasma (CTX Frame)

Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona - Credits for the additional process. and color.: Dr Paolo C. Fienga/LXTT/IPF

The NASA - Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter was launched exactly 10 years ago! One of the many discoveries from this Mission is that there are, here and there, some so-called "Seasonal Flows" on steep Slopes, that have a set of characteristics consistent with shallow Seeps of Salty Water. They are called "Recurring Slope Lineae" (---> from the Latin word "lines") because they fade and disappear during the cold seasons and then they reappear during the warm seasons, and repeating this pattern for every Martian Year. The Flows - which are already visible in this CTX image - are found in Coprates Chasma, and they are are located on a North-facing Slope. This means that they are (better yet: should be) active now, during the Northern Martian Spring.

These aformentuioned Flows emanate from relatively bright Bedrock, and then fall onto Sandy Fans (where they are remarkably straight), by following Linear Channels. The Great Valles Marineris Canyon System contains more of these Flows than everywhere else on Mars combined, and they are (apparently) always active.

As you know, the fhe future - hopefully! - human explorers (and settlers?...) will need Water to drink, they will have to grow food, produce Oxygen to breathe, and - last but certainly not least! - to produce rocket fuel. Bringing all of that Water from Earth would be extremely expensive (---> impossible), so using the Water that already exists - even though it is frozen now - on Mars becomes essential. Although there is (for sure) plenty of Water Ice at much Higher Martian Latitudes (---> in the Martian Region known as Vastitas Borealis, for instance), surviving the cold Martian Winters there would be difficult. Therefore, an Equatorial Source of Water (IF any...) would be preferable.

So, all that said, the Great Valles Marineris Canyon System MIGHT be the best destination. However, the NASA Planetary Scientists said that the chemistry of this (so far alleged) Equatorial and peri-Equatorial Water must be VERY well understood before betting any human lives on it. Would that be possible without getting samples? We, as IPF, seriously doubt it...

Mars Local Time: 14:45 (Early Afternoon)
Coord. (centered): 12,951° South Lat. and 171,333° East Long.
Spacecraft altitude: 275,9 Km (such as about 160,901 miles)
Original image scale range: 55,2 cm/pixel (with 2 x 2 binningso objects ~ 1 mt and 66 cm across are resolved
Map projected scale: 50 cm/pixel
Emission Angle: 19,4°
Phase Angle: 31,5°
Solar Incidence Angle: 46° (meaning that the Sun was about 44° above the Local Horizon at the time the picture was taken)
Solar Longitude: 20,5° (Northern Spring - Southern Fall)
Credits: NASA/JPL/University of Arizona
Additional process. and coloring: Lunar Explorer Italia

This picture (which is a NASA - Original Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter b/w and NON Map-Projected CTX-frame identified by the serial n. ESP_042228_1670) has been additionally processed, reduced in size to fit the page, contrast enhanced, Gamma corrected, and then colorized in Absolute Natural Colors (such as the colors that a human eye would actually perceive if someone were onboard the NASA - Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter and then looked down, towards the Surface of Mars), by using an original technique created - and, in time, dramatically improved - by the Lunar Explorer Italia Team.

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