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03.29.2017 A Decade of Compiling the Sharpest Mars Map
03.09.2017 Back-to-Back Martian Dust Storms
02.08.2017 Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter Observes Changes
01.25.2017 'Wing' Dike of Hardened Lava in New Mexico
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01.06.2017 Earth and Its Moon, as Seen From Mars
11.15.2016 Schiaparelli Impact Site on Mars, Stereo
11.03.2016 Schiaparelli Impact Site on Mars, in Color
03.30.2016 Erisa Hines
03.30.2016 Buzz Aldrin
03.21.2016 For a Decade Orbiting Mars: One Recent View
03.09.2016 For a Decade Orbiting Mars: One Recent View
03.09.2016 Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter By the Numbers
03.01.2016 MRO sees Frosty Spring Slopes
02.12.2016 Women in Science
02.10.2016 Wind at Work
11.16.2015 Change Observed in Martian Sand Dune
10.05.2015 'The Martian' Story's Ares 4 Landing Site
10.05.2015 The Ares 3 Landing Site (Figure A)
09.30.2015 Avalanche Ho!
06.29.2015 Mars Exploration Zone Layout Considerations
06.17.2015 Active High-Latitude Dune Gullies
06.03.2015 Crisp Crater in Sirenum Fossae
05.20.2015 Sedimentary Rock Layers on a Crater Floor
05.20.2015 Honey, I Shrunk the Mesas
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05.04.2015 Diverse Orbits Around Mars
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03.25.2015 Pitted Landforms in Southern Hellas Planitia
03.12.2015 Curiosity Heading Away from 'Pahrump Hills'
02.18.2015 Lava Flow Near the Base of Olympus Mons
02.09.2015 Yardangs in Arsinoes Chaos, Mars
02.04.2015 Curiosity Rover at 'Pahrump Hills'
01.22.2015 Frost on Crater Slope
Branched Features on the Floor of Antoniadi CraterIn this image from the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, the dark branched features in the floor of Antoniadi Crater look like giant ferns, or fern casts. However, these ferns would be several miles in size and are composed of rough rocky materials.
A more likely hypothesis is that this represents a channel network that now stands in inverted relief. The channels may have been lined or filled by indurated materials, making the channel fill more resistant to erosion by the wind than surrounding materials. After probably billions of years of wind erosion the resistant channels are now relatively high-standing. The material between the branched ridges has a fracture pattern and color similar to deposits elsewhere on Mars that are known to be rich in hydrated minerals such as clays.
The inverted channels have short, stubby branches characteristic of formation by groundwater sapping. Spring water seeps into the channels and undercuts overlying layers, which collapse, so the channels grow headward. These images tell the story of an ancient wet environment on Mars, where life could have been possible. Ancient Martian life, if it existed, would most likely consist of microorganisms rather than giant tree ferns.
This image, covering an area about 1 kilometer (0.6 mile) across, is a portion of the HiRISE observation catalogued as ESP_012435_2015, taken on March 22, 2009. The observation is centered at 21.4 degrees north latitude, 61.3 degrees east longitude. The image was taken at a local Mars time of 3:31 p.m. and the scene is illuminated from the west with a solar incidence angle of 66 degrees, thus the sun was about 24 degrees above the horizon. At a solar longitude of 232.1 degrees, the season on Mars is northern autumn.
Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona