Gale crater, the field site for NASA's Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity rover, contains a diverse and extensive record of aeolian deposition and erosion. This study focuses on a series of regularly spaced, curvilinear, and sometimes branching bedrock ridges that occur within the Glen Torridon region on the lower northwest flank of Aeolis Mons, the central mound within Gale crater. During Curiosity's exploration of Glen Torridon between sols ∼2300–3080, the rover drove through this field of ridges, providing the opportunity for in situ observation of these features. This study uses orbiter and rover data to characterize ridge morphology, spatial distribution, compositional and material properties, and association with other aeolian features in the area. Based on these observations, we find that the Glen Torridon ridges are consistent with an origin as wind-eroded bedrock ridges, carved during the exhumation of Mount Sharp. Erosional features like the Glen Torridon ridges observed elsewhere on Mars, termed periodic bedrock ridges (PBRs), have been interpreted to form transverse to the dominant wind direction. The size and morphology of the Glen Torridon PBRs are consistent with transverse formative winds, but the orientation of nearby aeolian bedforms and bedrock erosional features raise the possibility of PBR formation by a net northeasterly wind regime. Although several formation models for the Glen Torridon PBRs are still under consideration, and questions persist about the nature of PBR-forming paleowinds, the presence of PBRs at this site provides important constraints on the depositional and erosional history of Gale crater.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Geochemistry and Petrology
- Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)
- Space and Planetary Science