Martian Erosion Makes Planet's Surface Look Like It’s Been Mined

Terraced steps and hills in Arabia Terra 7 photos
Photo: NASA/JPL/UArizona
Arabia Terra region of MarsArabia Terra region of MarsArabia Terra region of MarsArabia Terra region of MarsArabia Terra region of MarsTerraced steps and hills in Arabia Terra
Mining is one of the most important human activities. Thanks to it, our cars can move, our houses are warm, and diamonds are a thing. Mining is also slowly killing the planet, and it will soon do so elsewhere as well.
There are a number of ways to mine, depending on what humans are after at any given point. We dig shafts when looking for oil or gas, underground caverns when going after coal, and blow chunks of the Earth's surface away when looking for diamonds.

This last method creates beautiful, almost symmetrical terraces, but also huge craters that scar our planet from Botswana to Russia and South America. And, if we didn’t know any better, we might have been fooled that this image of a region on Mars shows some signs of mining activity.

What you’re looking at is a chunk of Arabia Terra, where extensive erosion created layers upon layers of rock. It’s not an all that common sight on the Red Planet, and it’s simply breathtaking.

The shot was taken from an altitude of 272 km (169 miles) using the HiRISE camera that has been orbiting Mars for years on board the Reconnaissance Orbiter.

We see a bunch of strangely shaped and arranged hills, separated by terraced steps. These features came to be, according to the scientists studying them, as “a result in differences between layers in cohesion and resistance to weathering.” More precisely, weaker layers (like say volcanic ash) disaggregate quickly into shallow slopes, while the stronger ones (lava flows) are responsible for the sharp edges.

Arabia Terra is a very peculiar location. It is there where HiRISE also uncovered a jellyfish-like feature created by slope streaks resulting from avalanches of dust. Being densly cratered and eroded, the place is an unending reservoir of strange natural formations.
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Editor's note: Gallery shows Arabia Terra region of Mars.

About the author: Daniel Patrascu
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Daniel loves writing (or so he claims), and he uses this skill to offer readers a "behind the scenes" look at the automotive industry. He also enjoys talking about space exploration and robots, because in his view the only way forward for humanity is away from this planet, in metal bodies.
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