23 research outputs found

    Martian Paleolake Outlet Canyons - Evidence for Controls on Valley Network Formation

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    Martian valley networks (VNs) have been viewed as one of the most compelling pieces of evidence for ancient fluvial activity during the Late Noachian and Early Hesperian periods (3.7–3.5 Ga), likely as a result of precipitation (snowfall/rainfall). During this period, paleolakes also formed, predominantly due to water accumulation within impact crater interiors. Some of these paleolakes breached the rim of their basins (e.g., crater rim) which caused outburst flooding and incision of a paleolake outlet canyon over a short period of time (weeks to years). After the Late Hesperian, valley formation vastly decreased indicating a waning water cycle. There have been inferences that paleolake outlet canyons may have controlled the trajectories of adjacent valley networks that formed after them, yet no direct evidence has been observed. In this study, we map and apply paleohydraulic, morphometric, and morphological calculations to two hydrological systems located west of the Tharsis Rise, where hydrological systems are defined as a combination of a paleolake outlet canyon and adjoining VNs. We aim to determine whether the paleolake outlet canyons show evidence of control on the trajectory of adjacent VNs and the impact this has on their development. We find that the paleolake outlet canyons do place control on the trajectories of adjacent VNs, causing them to detour from the regional slope direction and causing the basin to deviate from the natural fractal geometry formed by precipitation-fed fluvial incision. Additionally, the paleolake outlet canyons display a decrease in the cross-sectional area down their profile, indicating they experienced water loss as they were active. The examined paleolake outlet canyons have altered the evolution and interconnectivity of the adjoining VNs, leading to water loss, likely to the subsurface. Finally, given the proximity of these hydrological systems to the Tharsis Rise, we note that they display a complex history of fluvial and tectonic activity, indicating that fluvial activity both preceded and post-dates Tharsis-induced tectonic activity

    The Hypanis Valles delta: The last highstand of a sea on early Mars?

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    One of the most contentious hypotheses in the geological history of Mars is whether the northern lowlands ever contained an oceanic water body. Arguably, the best evidence for an ocean comes from the presence of sedimentary fans around Mars' dichotomy boundary, which separates the northern lowlands from the southern highlands. Here we describe the palaeogeomorphology of the Hypanis Valles sediment fan, the largest sediment fan complex reported on Mars (area >970 km2). This has an extensive catchment (4.6 x 105 km2) incorporating Hypanis and Nanedi Valles, that we show was active during the late-Noachian/early-Hesperian period (∼3.7 Ga). The fan comprises a series of lobe-shaped sediment bodies, connected by multiple bifurcating flat-topped ridges. We interpret the latter as former fluvial channel belts now preserved in inverted relief. Meter-scale-thick, sub-horizontal layers that are continuous over tens of kilometres are visible in scarps and the inverted channel margins. The inverted channel branches and lobes are observed to occur up to at least 140 km from the outlet of Hypanis Valles and descend ∼500 m in elevation. The progressive basinward advance of the channellobe transition records deposition and avulsion at the margin of a retreating standing body of water, assuming the elevation of the northern plains basin floor is stable. We interpret the Hypanis sediment fan to represent an ancient delta as opposed to a fluvial fan system. At its location at the dichotomy boundary, the Hypanis Valles fan system is topographically open to Chryse Planitia – an extensive plain that opens in turn into the larger northern lowlands basin. We conclude that the observed progradation of fan bodies was due to basinward shoreline retreat of an ancient body of water which extended across at least Chryse Planitia. Given the open topography, it is plausible that the Hypanis fan system records the existence, last highstand, and retreat of a large sea in Chryse Planitia and perhaps even an ocean that filled the northern plains of Mars

    Aram Dorsum: an extensive mid-Noachian age fluvial depositional system in Arabia Terra, Mars

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    A major debate in Mars science is the nature of the early Mars climate, and the availability of precipitation and runoff. Observations of relict erosional valley networks have been proposed as evidence for extensive surface run‐off around the Noachian‐Hesperian boundary. However, these valley networks only provide a time‐integrated record of landscape evolution and thus the timing, relative timescales and intensity of aqueous activity required to erode the valleys remain unknown. Here, we investigate an ancient fluvial sedimentary system in western Arabia Terra, now preserved in positive relief. This ridge, ‘Aram Dorsum’, is flat‐topped, branching, ~ 85 km long, and particularly well‐preserved. We show that Aram Dorsum was an aggradational alluvial system and that the existing ridge was once a large river channel‐belt set in extensive flood plains, many of which are still preserved. Smaller, palaeochannel‐belts feed the main system; their setting and network pattern suggest a distributed source of water. The alluvial succession is up to 60 m thick, suggesting a formation time of 105 to 107 years by analogy to Earth. Our observations are consistent with Aram Dorsum having formed by long‐lived flows of water, sourced both locally, and regionally as part of a wider alluvial system in Arabia Terra. This suggests frequent or seasonal precipitation as the source of water. Correlating our observations with previous regional‐scale mapping shows that Aram Dorsum formed in the mid‐Noachian, making it one of the oldest fluvial systems described on Mars and indicating climatic conditions that sustained surface river flows on early Mars

    Active Upper-atmosphere Chemistry and Dynamics from Polar Circulation Reversal on Titan

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    Saturn's moon Titan has a nitrogen atmosphere comparable to Earth's, with a surface pressure of 1.4 bar. Numerical models reproduce the tropospheric conditions very well but have trouble explaining the observed middle-atmosphere temperatures, composition and winds. The top of the middle-atmosphere circulation has been thought to lie at an altitude of 450 to 500 kilometres, where there is a layer of haze that appears to be separated from the main haze deck. This 'detached' haze was previously explained as being due to the colocation of peak haze production and the limit of dynamical transport by the circulation's upper branch. Herewe report a build-up of trace gases over the south pole approximately two years after observing the 2009 post-equinox circulation reversal, from which we conclude that middle-atmosphere circulation must extend to an altitude of at least 600 kilometres. The primary drivers of this circulation are summer-hemisphere heating of haze by absorption of solar radiation and winter-hemisphere cooling due to infrared emission by haze and trace gases; our results therefore imply that these effects are important well into the thermosphere (altitudes higher than 500 kilometres). This requires both active upper-atmosphere chemistry, consistent with the detection of high-complexity molecules and ions at altitudes greater than 950 kilometres, and an alternative explanation for the detached haze, such as a transition in haze particle growth from monomers to fractal structures

    Hypotheses for the Origin of the Hypanis Fan-Shaped Deposit at the Edge of the Chryse Escarpment, Mars: Is it a Delta?

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    We investigated the origin of the fan-shaped deposit at the end of Hypanis Valles that has previously been proposed as an ExoMars, Mars 2020, and human mission candidate landing site, and found evidence that the landform is an ancient delta. Previous work suggests that the deposit originated from a time of fluvial activity both distinct from and prior to catastrophic outflow, and crater counting placed the deposit’s age at  ≥ 3.6 Ga. We found over 30 thin sedimentary strata in the proposed delta wall, and from our slope analysis conclude that the fluvial sequence is consistent with a lowering/retreating shoreline. We measured nearly horizontal bedding dip angles ranging from 0° to 2° over long stretches of cliff and bench exposures seen in HiRISE images and HiRISE stereo DTMs. From THEMIS night IR images we determined that the fan-shaped deposit has a low thermal inertia (150-240 Jm-2 K-1 s-1/2) and the surrounding darker-toned units correspond to thermal inertia values as high as 270-390 Jm-2 K-1 s-1/2. We interpret these findings to indicate that the fan-shaped deposit consists mostly of silt-sized and possibly finer grains, and that the extremely low grade and large lateral extent of these beds implies that the depositional environment was calm and relatively long-lived. We interpret the geomorphology and composition as incompatible with an alluvial fan or mudflow hypothesis. From our stratigraphic mapping we interpret the order of events which shaped the region. After the Chryse impact, sediment filled the basin, a confined lake or sea formed allowing a large delta to be deposited near its shoreline, the water level receded to the north, darker sedimentary/volcanic units covered the region and capped the light-toned deposit as hydro-volcanic eruptions shaped the interior of Lederberg crater, freeze/thaw cycles and desiccation induced local fracturing, and finally wrinkle ridges associated with rounded cones warped the landscape following trends in degraded crater rims and existing tectonic features. The ancient deltaic deposit we observe today was largely untouched by subsequent catastrophic outflows, and its surface has been only moderately reshaped by over 3 billion years of aeolian erosion

    Water-altered mineralogy and landforms in equatorial regions of Mars

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    Hematitic concretions at Meridiani Planum, Mars: their growth timescale and possible relationship with iron sulfates

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    Using diffusion-based models for concretion growth, we calculate growth times of hematitic concretions that have been found in the Burns formation at Meridiani Planum, Mars, by NASA's Opportunity Mars Exploration Rover. Growth times of ~ 350–1900 terrestrial years are obtained for the observed size range of the concretions over a range of parameters representing likely diagenetic conditions and allowing for an iron source from diagenetic redistribution. This time scale is consistent with radiometric age constraints for the growth time of iron oxide concretions in sandy sediments of the acid-saline Lake Brown in Western Australia (< 3000 yr) reported elsewhere. We consider the source of the iron for Meridiani concretions by calculating the constraints on the supply of Fe3+ to growing concretions from the dissolution and oxidation rates of iron minerals on early Mars. Mass balance arguments suggest that acid dissolution of jarosite ((H3O,K)(Fe3+3(OH)6(SO4)2) and minor ferric sulfates is probably the most plausible dominant contributor to Fe3+ in the concretions. Ferrous iron released from melanterite (Fe2+SO4·7H2O) that is subsequently oxidized could also have been an important iron source if melanterite existed prior to diagenesis. Our conclusion that the iron is sourced from iron sulfates may explain the global observation from orbiters that grey crystalline hematite occurs in association with sulfate deposits

    The temperatures of Giordano Bruno crater observed by the Diviner Lunar Radiometer Experiment: application of an effective field of view model for a point-based data set

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    Point based planetary datasets are typically stored as discrete records that represent an infinitesimal location on the target body. Instrumental effects and spacecraft motion during integration time can cause single points to inadequately represent the total area on the target that contributes to an observation. Production of mapped data products from these data for scientific analysis proceeds by binning points onto rectangular grids. Empty bins occur where data coverage is insufficient relative to grid resolution, a common problem at high latitudes in cylindrical projections, and remedial interpolation can lead to high uncertainty areas and artifacts in maps. To address such issues and make better use of available data, we present a method to calculate the ground-projected effective field of view (EFOV) for point-based datasets, using knowledge of instrumental characteristics and observation geometry. We apply this approach to data from the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) Diviner Lunar Radiometer Experiment, a visible to far-infrared multispectral radiometer which acquires radiometric measurements of reflected visible and emitted infrared radiation of the Moon in 9 spectral channels between 0.35 and 400 μm. Analysis of gridded radiance from crater Giordano Bruno, a 22 km diameter rayed crater, is used to demonstrate our gridding procedure. Diviner data, with such processing, reveals details of the surface that are seen in the high-resolution LRO Camera NAC images. Brightness temperatures and anisothermality observed in Diviner’s IR channels show the thermophysical properties of the crater ejecta to be very heterogeneous indicative of minimal mechanical disruption by micrometeoroid impacts consistent with a very young (<10 Ma) formation age as the lunar surface becomes rapidly homogenized over time. This heterogeneity has implications for crater-count studies as regions of high anisothermality are characterized by large blocks of material and lower crater densities
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