• 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.
    • Effect of volatiles and target lithology on the generation and emplacement of impact crater fill and ejecta deposits on Mars

      Osinski, Gordon R. (The Meteoritical Society, 2006-01-01)
      Impact cratering is an important geological process on Mars and the nature of Martian impact craters may provide important information as to the volatile content of the Martian crust. Terrestrial impact structures currently provide the only ground-truth data as to the role of volatiles and an atmosphere on the impact-cratering process. Recent advancements, based on studies of several well-preserved terrestrial craters, have been made regarding the role and effect of volatiles on the impact-cratering process. Combined field and laboratory studies reveal that impact melting is much more common in volatile-rich targets than previously thought, so impact-melt rocks, melt-bearing breccias, and glasses should be common on Mars. Consideration of the terrestrial impact-cratering record suggests that it is the presence or absence of subsurface volatiles and not the presence of an atmosphere that largely controls ejecta emplacement on Mars. Furthermore, recent studies at the Haughton and Ries impact structures reveal that there are two discrete episodes of ejecta deposition during the formation of complex impact craters that provide a mechanism for generating multiple layers of ejecta. It is apparent that the relative abundance of volatiles in the near-surface region outside a transient cavity and in the target rocks within the transient cavity play a key role in controlling the amount of fluidization of Martian ejecta deposits. This study shows the value of using terrestrial analogues, in addition to observational data from robotic orbiters and landers, laboratory experiments, and numerical modeling to explore the Martian impact-cratering record.
    • 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.
    • 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.