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This Large Slump Is Scarce Proof Stuff Still Happens on Mars

By most definitions, Mars is a dead planet. As far as we know, it doesn’t have life of any kind anywhere, and doesn’t really have the means to support life of any kind, anywhere. By other definitions, though, the place is anything but dead.
Slump in the Eos Chasma region of Mars 6 photos
Mars' Valles Marineris seen from spaceMars' Valles Marineris seen from spaceMars' Valles Marineris seen from spaceMars' Valles Marineris seen from spaceMars' Valles Marineris seen from space
For all intents and purposes, like most other bodies in our solar system, despite being devoid of life, the planet is very much alive and kicking in other respects. Its ground shakes under the power of quakes, its surface gets ravaged by massive, planet-wide dust storms from time to time, and, every now and then, its face changes as a result of various other processes. Like slumping.

That’s what results when a “mass of loosely consolidated material or a rock layer moves a short distance down a slope,” as per NASA. It can be caused by a variety of processes, and it’s a phenomenon we can encounter on Mars as well.

Back in November 2021, the HiRISE camera orbiting the planet captured the image we have here, showing a portion of the Eos Chasma region in the Valles Marineris canyon system. It depicts a 700 meters (0.4 miles) long slump that formed over a long time, between March 2020 and February 2021.

Like with all things happening over there, we cannot say for certain what caused this slump, but according to NASA and the University of Arizona, might have been one of three causes: the “loading of the slope via smaller-scale activity like gullies,” recurring slope lineae and windblown deposits, or a local quake.

Those are pretty much the same events that cause slumping here on Earth (we have several others, though, including a drop in friction through wetting, freezing and thawing, and undercutting), and that makes Mars, at least in this respect, not such an alien place after all.

Editor's note: Gallery shows the Valles Marineris region of Mars.

 
 
 
 
 

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