HiRISE observations of Recurring Slope Lineae (RSL) during southern summer on Mars

Lujendra Ojha, Alfred McEwen, Colin Dundas, Shane Byrne, Sarah Mattson, James Wray, Marion Masse, Ethan Schaefer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

82 Scopus citations


Recurring Slope Lineae (RSL) are active features on Mars that might require flowing water. Most examples observed through 2011 formed on steep, equator-facing slopes in the southern mid-latitudes. They form and grow during warm seasons and fade and often completely disappear during colder seasons, but recur over multiple Mars years. They are recognizable by their incremental growth, relatively low albedo and downhill orientation. We examined all images acquired by HiRISE during Ls 250-10° (slightly longer than southern summer, Ls 270-360°) of Mars years 30-31 (03/2011-10/2011), and supplemented our results with data from previous studies to better understand the geologic context and characteristics of RSL. We also confirmed candidate and likely sites from previous studies and discovered new RSL sites. We report 13 confirmed RSL sites, including the 7 in McEwen et al. (McEwen et al. [2011]. Science 333(6043), 740-743]. The observed seasonality, latitudinal and slope orientation preferences, and THEMIS brightness temperatures indicate that RSL require warm temperatures to form. We conclude that RSL are a unique phenomenon on Mars, clearly distinct from other slope processes that occur at high latitudes associated with seasonal CO2 frost, and episodic mass wasting on equatorial slopes. However, only 41% (82 out of 200) of the sites that present apparently suitable conditions for RSL formation (steep, equator-facing rocky slopes with bedrock exposure) in the southern mid-latitudes (28-60°S) contain any candidate RSL, with confirmed RSL present only in 7% (13 sites) of those locations. Significant variability in abundance, size and exact location of RSL is also observed at most sites, indicating additional controls such as availability of water or salts that might be playing a crucial role.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)365-376
Number of pages12
StatePublished - Mar 1 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Geological processes
  • Ices
  • Mars, surface

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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