Sub-kilometre (intra-crater) mounds in Utopia Planitia, Mars: character, occurrence and possible formation hypotheses

Research areas:
Year:
2013
Keywords:
Ices, Marsclimate, Marssurface
Authors:
  • Richard J. Soare
  • Susan Conway
  • Geoffrey D. Pearce
  • François Costard
  • Antoine Séjourné
Journal:
Mars Polar Science V
Volume:
225
Number:
2
Pages:
982-991
Month:
August
ISSN:
0019-1035
Abstract:
At the middle latitudes of Utopia Planitia (∼35–45°N; ∼65–101°E) hundreds of small-sized mounds located in sub-kilometre impact craters dot the landscape. Their shape varies from circular to crescentic and their height ranges from ∼10 to 50 m. Often, metre to decametre pitting is observed, as is metres-thick banding or stratification. Mound albedo is relatively high, i.e. ∼0.16. The plain’s terrain in the region, previously linked to the latitude-dependent mantle (LDM) of ice–dust, displays pitting and albedo similar to the small intra-crater mounds. Some workers have suggested that the mounds and the plain’s terrain share a common ice–dust origin. If so, then scrutinising the mounds could provide analogical insight on the key geological characteristics and spatial distribution of the LDM itself. Other workers have hypothesised that the mounds are eroded sedimentary landforms or periglacial mounds underlain by a perennial ice-core (closed-system pingos).

In this article we develop and then discuss each of the three mound-hypotheses in a much more substantial manner than has been done hitherto. Towards this end we use high-resolution images, present a detailed regional-map of mound distribution and establish a regional platform of topographical analysis using MOLA data superposed on a large-scale CTX mosaic. Although the ice–dust hypothesis is consistent with some observations and measurements, we find that a (loess-based) sedimentary hypothesis shows greater plausibility. Of the three hypotheses evaluated, the pingo or periglacial one is the weakest.