Paper No. 7
Presentation Time: 9:45 AM
UNDERCUT ROCKS AT THE MER GUSEV LANDING SITE
On January 3 2004, the NASA Spirit rover landed on the plains inside the Gusev Crater in the southern hemisphere of Mars, and has made observations of the landing site and nearby region in visual and infrared wavelengths, as well as making in-situ measurements of rocks and soil. A number of rocks at the Gusev site are perched, with a significant undercut above the surface; additional rocks show a feature of being eroded or etched at a height of one to three centimeters immediately above the soil line. Some rocks also show terracing, and others show a two-tone pattern of albedo, with a distinct dividing line between a lighter area near the surface and a darker color above the surface. In a small number of cases, the dividing line is correlated with a visible horizontal groove in the rock, most likely indicating an earlier location of burial of the rock. A number of explanations for this undercutting are possible. Perched rocks can be placed on the surface by deflation of the soil from underneath the rock. The surface etching may be abrasion due to reptation. Reptation, or surface creep, occurs as sand moves without leaving the surface, as small (100-200 micron particles) moved by saltation set larger particles in motion. These large particles are effective at abrading the rocks at the surface level. The structure of "ripple" features at the site is evidence to support reptation at the Gusev site. An alternate explanation is etching at the surface by chemically active grit.