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The Spring 2011 issue of The Earth Scientist is focused on modernizing seismology education. Thanks to IRIS, you can download this issue for free as a pdf. Print copies are available in our online store.
This image shows the landing site for the Mars Pathfinder mission.
Click on image for full size
Image from: NASA/JPL

The Flood Plain explored by Mars Pathfinder

The nature of the flood plain observed by the Rover was unusual compared to a terrestrial flood plain, and suggested that it might not actually be a floodplain. The rocks could have come from ejecta from impacts which created the nearby craters. Scientists have to consider all the evidence before them so that they can prove a hypothesis is true.

Some of the reasons for doubting the flow-origin hypothesis include:

  • some of the boulders found by the Rover were larger than those expected to be carried by catastrophic flood waters.
  • there was no gravel present
On the other hand, scientists discovered many pebbles, cobbles and conglomerate-type rocks. These suggest that the landingsite *was* formed from outflowing water.

Scientists considered carefully whether the origin of the rocks could be from flowing water or from impact processes. Findings from these studies contribute to the overall results of the Pathfinder mission, and help answer some questions.


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Windows to the Universe, a project of the National Earth Science Teachers Association, is sponsored in part by the National Science Foundation and NASA, our Founding Partners (the American Geophysical Union and American Geosciences Institute) as well as through Institutional, Contributing, and Affiliate Partners, individual memberships and generous donors. Thank you for your support! NASA AGU AGI NSF