• Ages of rampart craters in equatorial regions on Mars: Implications for the past and present distribution of ground ice

      Reiss, D.; Van Gasselt, S.; Hauber, E.; Michael, G.; Jaumann, R.; Neukum, G. (The Meteoritical Society, 2006-01-01)
      We are testing the idea of Squyres et al. (1992) that rampart craters on Mars may have formed over a significant time period and therefore the onset diameter (minimum diameter of a rampart crater) only reflects the ground ice depth at a given time. We measured crater size frequencies on the layered ejecta of rampart craters in three equatorial regions to derive absolute model ages and to constrain the regional volatile history. Nearly all rampart craters in the Xanthe Terra region are ~3.8 Gyr old. This corresponds to the Noachian fluvial activity that region. Rampart crater formation declines in the Hesperian, whereas onset diameters (minimum diameter) increase. No new rampart craters formed after the end of the Hesperian (~3 Gyr). This indicates a lowering of the ground ice table with time in the Xanthe Terra region. Most rampart craters in the Valles Marineris region are around 3.6 Gyr old. Only one large, probably Amazonian-aged (~2.5 Gyr), rampart crater exists. These ages indicate a volatile-rich period in the Early Hesperian and a lowering of the ground ice table with time in the Valles Marineris study region. Rampart craters in southern Chryse Planitia,which are partly eroded by fluvial activity, show ages around 3.9 Gyr. Rampart craters superposed on channels have ages between ~1.5 and ~0.6 Gyr. The onset diameter (3 km at ~1.5 Gyr) in this region may indicate a relatively shallow ground ice table. Loss of volatiles due to diffusion and sublimation might have lowered the ground ice table even in the southern Chryse Planitia region afterwards. In general, our study implies a formation of the smallest rampart craters within and/or shortly after periods of fluvial activity and a subsequent lowering of the ground ice table indicated by increasing onset diameter to the present. These results question the method to derive present equatorial ground ice depths from the onset diameter of rampart craters without information about their formation time.
    • Chesapeake Bay impact structure: Morphology, crater fill, and relevance for impact structures on Mars

      Horton, J. Wright; Ormö, Jens; Powars, David S.; Gohn, Gregory S. (The Meteoritical Society, 2006-01-01)
      The late Eocene Chesapeake Bay impact structure (CBIS) on the Atlantic margin of Virginia is one of the largest and best-preserved "wet-target" craters on Earth. It provides an accessible analog for studying impact processes in layered and wet targets on volatile-rich planets. The CBIS formed in a layered target of water, weak clastic sediments, and hard crystalline rock. The buried structure consists of a deep, filled central crater, 38 km in width, surrounded by a shallower brim known as the annular trough. The annular trough formed partly by collapse of weak sediments, which expanded the structure to ~85 km in diameter. Such extensive collapse, in addition to excavation processes, can explain the "inverted sombrero" morphology observed at some craters in layered targets.The distribution of crater-fill materials in the CBIS is related to the morphology. Suevitic breccia, including pre-resurge fallback deposits, is found in the central crater. Impact-modified sediments, formed by fluidization and collapse of water-saturated sand and silt-clay, occur in the annular trough. Allogenic sediment-clast breccia, interpreted as ocean-resurge deposits, overlies the other impactites and covers the entire crater beneath a blanket of postimpact sediments.The formation of chaotic terrains on Mars is attributed to collapse due to the release of volatiles from thick layered deposits. Some flat-floored rimless depressions with chaotic infill in these terrains are impact craters that expanded by collapse farther than expected for similar-sized complex craters in solid targets. Studies of crater materials in the CBIS provide insights into processes of crater expansion on Mars and their links to volatiles.
    • High-latitude cold-based glacial deposits on Mars: Multiple superposed drop moraines in a crater interior at 70 degrees N latitude

      Garvin, James B.; Head, James W.; Marchant, David R.; Kreslavsky, Mikhail A. (The Meteoritical Society, 2006-01-01)
      An impact crater 26.8 km in diameter, located in the northern lowlands (70.32 degrees N, 266.45 degrees E) at the base of the flanking slopes of the shield volcano Alba Patera, is characterized by highly unusual deposits on its southeastern floor and interior walls and on its southeastern rim. These include multiple generations of distinctive arcuate ridges about 115-240 m in width and lobate deposits extending down the crater wall and across the crater floor, forming a broad, claw-like, ridged deposit around the central peak. Unusual deposits on the eastern and southeastern crater rim include frost, dunes, and a single distal arcuate ridge. Based on their morphology and geometric relationships, and terrestrial analogs from the Mars-like Antarctic Dry Valleys, the floor ridges are interpreted to represent drop moraines, remnants of the previous accumulation of snow and ice, and formation of cold-based glaciers on the crater rim. The configuration and superposition of the ridges indicate that the accumulated snow and ice formed glaciers that flowed down into the crater and across the crater floor, stabilized, covering an area of about 150 km^2, and produced multiple individual drop moraines due to fluctuation in the position of the stable glacier front. Superposition of a thin mantle and textures attributed to a recent ice-age period (~0.5-2 Myr ago) suggest that the glacial deposits date to at least 4-10 Myr before the present. At least five phases of advance and retreat are indicated by the stratigraphic relationships, and these may be related to obliquity excursions. These deposits are in contrast to other ice-related modification and degradation processes typical of craters in the northern lowlands, and may be related to the distinctive position of this crater in the past atmospheric circulation pattern, leading to sufficient preferential local accumulation of snow and ice to cause glacial flow.
    • Martian perched craters and large ejecta volume: Evidence for episodes of deflation in the northern lowlands

      Meresse, Sandrine; Costard, Franois; Mangold, Nicolas; Baratoux, David; Boyce, Joseph M. (The Meteoritical Society, 2006-01-01)
      The northern lowland plains, such as those found in Acidalia and Utopia Planitia, have high percentages of impact craters with fluidized ejecta. In both regions, the analysis of crater geometry from Mars Orbiter Laser Altimeter (MOLA) data has revealed large ejecta volumes, some exceeding the volume of excavation. Moreover, some of the crater cavities and fluidized ejecta blankets of these craters are topographically perched above the surrounding plains. These perched craters are concentrated between 40 and 70 degrees N in the northern plains. The atypical high volumes of the ejecta and the perched craters suggest that the northern lowlands have experienced one or more episodes of resurfacing that involved deposition and erosion. The removal of material, most likely caused by the sublimation of ice in the materials and their subsequent erosion and transport by the wind, is more rapid on the plains than on the ejecta blankets. The thermal inertia difference between the ejecta and the surrounding plains suggests that ejecta, characterized by a lower thermal inertia, protect the underneath terrain from sublimation. This results in a decreased elevation of the plains relative to the ejecta blankets. Sublimation and eolian erosion can be particularly high during periods of high obliquity.
    • Martian subsurface properties and crater formation processes inferred from fresh impact crater geometries

      Stewart, Sarah T.; Valiant, Gregory J. (The Meteoritical Society, 2006-01-01)
      The geometry of simple impact craters reflects the properties of the target materials, and the diverse range of fluidized morphologies observed in Martian ejecta blankets are controlled by the near-surface composition and the climate at the time of impact.Using the Mars Orbiter Laser Altimeter (MOLA) data set, quantitative information about the strength of the upper crust and the dynamics of Martian ejecta blankets may be derived from crater geometry measurements. Here, we present the results fromgeometrical measurements of fresh craters 3-50 km in rim diameter in selected highland (Lunae and Solis Plana) and lowland (Acidalia, Isidis, and Utopia Planitiae) terrains. We find large, resolved differences between the geometrical properties of the freshest highland and lowland craters. Simple lowland craters are 1.5-2.0 times deeper (greater than or equal to 5-sigma difference) with >50% larger cavities (greater than or equal to 2-sigma) compared to highland craters of the same diameter. Rim heights and the volume of material above the preimpact surface are slightly greater in the lowlands over most of the size range studied. The different shapes of simple highland and lowland craters indicate that the upper ~6.5 km of the lowland study regions are significantly stronger than the upper crust of the highland plateaus. Lowland craters collapse to final volumes of 45-70% of their transient cavity volumes, while highland craters preserve only 25-50%. The effective yield strength of the upper crust in the lowland regions falls in the range of competent rock, approximately 9-12 MPa, and the highland plateaus may be weaker by a factor of 2 or more, consistent with heavily fractured Noachian layered deposits. The measured volumes of continuous ejecta blankets and uplifted surface materials exceed the predictions from standard crater scaling relationships and Maxwell's Z model of crater excavation by a factor of 3. The excess volume of fluidized ejecta blankets on Mars cannot be explained by concentration of ejecta through nonballistic emplacement processes and/or bulking. The observations require a modification of the scaling laws and are well fit using a scaling factor of ~1.4 between the transient crater surface diameter to the final crater rim diameter and excavation flow originating from one projectile diameter depth with Z = 2.7. The refined excavation model provides the first observationally constrained set of initial parameters for study of the formation of fluidized ejecta blankets on Mars.
    • Modification of impact craters in the northern plains of Mars: Implications for Amazonian climate history

      Kreslavsky, M. A.; Head, J. W. (The Meteoritical Society, 2006-01-01)
      We measured the depth, wall steepness, and ejecta roughness and surveyed the wall and floor morphology of all craters 10-25 km in diameter within the typical Vastitas Borealis Formation in the northern lowlands of Mars north of 52 degrees N. Two of the 130 craters have unusually rough ejecta; they are deep, have steep walls, and are apparently the youngest in the population. Icy mantles filling the local subkilometer-scale topographic lows is the main contribution to ejecta smoothing, which occurs at a time scale on the order of tens of Myr. Wall degradation and crater shallowing generally occur at longer time scales, comparable to the duration of the Amazonian period. Many craters are shallow due to filling of the crater with specific ice-rich material of uncertain origin. We use our collected data to infer the nature of the past climate back through the Amazonian, a period prior to ~10-20 Myr ago, when orbital parameter solutions are chaotic and one must rely on geological data to infer climate conditions. We conclude that moderately high obliquity and wide obliquity variations were probable during the last 40-160 Myr. We tentatively conclude that high obliquity peaks (>40-45 degrees) may have occurred episodically through the last 210-430 Myr. A sharp step in the frequency distribution of wall steepness at 20 degrees may indicate a geologically long period prior to that time where obliquity never exceeded 40-45 degrees.
    • Morphology and geometry of the distal ramparts of Martian impact craters

      Mouginis-Mark, Peter J.; Baloga, Stephen M. (The Meteoritical Society, 2006-01-01)
      We used Mars Orbiter Laser Altimeter (MOLA), Thermal Emission Imaging System visible light (THEMIS VIS), and Mars Orbiter Camera (MOC) data to identify and characterize the morphology and geometry of the distal ramparts surrounding Martian craters. Such information is valuable for investigating the ejecta emplacement process, as well as searching for spatial variations in ejecta characteristics that may be due to target material properties and/or latitude, altitude, or temporal variations in the climate. We find no systematic trend in rampart height that would indicate regional variations in target properties for 54 ramparts at 37 different craters 5.7-35.9 km in diameter between 52.3 degrees S to 47.6 degrees N. Rampart heights for multi-lobe and single-lobe ejecta are each normally distributed with a common standard deviation, but statistically distinct mean values. Ramparts range in height from 20-180 m, are not symmetric, are typically steeper on their distal sides, and may be as much as ~4 km wide. The ejecta blanket proximal to parent crater from the rampart may be very thin (<5 m). A detailed analysis of two craters, Toconao crater (21 degrees S, 285 degrees E) (28 measurements), and an unnamed crater within Chryse Planitia (28.4 degrees N, 319.6 degrees E) (20 measurements), reveals that ejecta runout distance increases with an increase in height between the crater rim and the rampart, but that rampart height is not correlated with ejecta runout distance or the thickness of the ejecta blanket.
    • The formation of fluidized ejecta on Mars by granular flows

      Wada, Koji; Barnouin-Jha, Olivier S. (The Meteoritical Society, 2006-01-01)
      A simple granular flow model is used to investigate some of the conditions under which ejecta may flow as a granular media. The purpose of this investigation is to provide some bounds as to when either volatiles or an atmosphere are required to explain the fluid-like morphology of many Martian ejecta deposits. We consider the ejecta deposition process from when an ejecta curtain first strikes a target surface via ballistics and possibly flows thereafter. A new finding is that either hard-smooth surfaces or slightly erodible surfaces allow ejecta to flow readily as a granular medium. Neither volatiles nor an atmosphere are required to initiate flow. A low friction coefficient between ejecta grains can also generate flow and would be analogous to adding volatiles to the ejecta. The presence of either a rough or a densely packed erodible surface does not permit easy ejecta flow. High friction coefficients between ejecta grain also prevent flow, while changes in the coefficient of restitution (a measure of how much energy is retained after collisions between particles) plays a minor role in the flow dynamics of ejecta. A hard smooth or a somewhat erodible surface could be generated by past fluvial activity on Mars, which can either indurate a surface, erode and smooth a surface, or generate sedimentary terrains that are fairly easy to erode. No ramparts or layered ejecta morphologies are generated by our model, but this may be because several simplifying assumptions are used in our model and should not be construed as proof that either volatiles or an atmosphere are required to form fluidized ejecta morphologies.
    • The planforms of low-angle impact craters in the northern hemisphere of Mars

      Herrick, Robert R.; Hessen, Katie K. (The Meteoritical Society, 2006-01-01)
      We have surveyed Martian impact craters greater than 5 km in diameter using Viking and thermal emission imaging system (THEMIS) imagery to evaluate how the planform of the rim and ejecta changes with decreasing impact angle. We infer the impact angles at which the changes occur by assuming a sin2Phi dependence for the cumulative fraction of craters forming below angle Phi. At impact angles less than ~40 from horizontal, the ejecta become offset downrange relative to the crater rim. As the impact angle decreases to less than ~20 degrees, the ejecta begin to concentrate in the crossrange direction and a "forbidden zone" that is void of ejecta develops in the uprange direction. At angles less than ~10 degrees, a "butterfly" ejecta pattern is generated by the presence of downrange and uprange forbidden zones, and the rim planform becomes elliptical with the major axis oriented along the projectile's direction of travel. The uprange forbidden zone appears as a "V" curving outward from the rim, but the downrange forbidden zone is a straight-edged wedge. Although fresh Martian craters greater than 5 km in diameter have ramparts indicative of surface ejecta flow, the ejecta planforms and the angles at which they occur are very similar to those for lunar craters and laboratory impacts conducted in a dry vacuum. The planforms are different from those for Venusian craters and experimental impacts in a dense atmosphere. We interpret our results to indicate that Martian ejecta are first emplaced predominantly ballistically and then experience modest surface flow.