Phaethontis quadrangle

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Phaethontis quadrangle
USGS-Mars-MC-24-PhaethontisRegion-mola.png
Map of Phaethontis quadrangle from Mars Orbiter Laser Altimeter (MOLA) data. The highest elevations are red and the lowest are blue.
Coordinates 47°30′S 150°00′W / 47.5°S 150°W / -47.5; -150Coordinates: 47°30′S 150°00′W / 47.5°S 150°W / -47.5; -150
Image of the Phaethontis Quadrangle (MC-24). The region is dominated by heavily cratered highlands and low-lying areas forming relatively smooth plains.

The Phaethontis quadrangle is one of a series of 30 quadrangle maps of Mars used by the United States Geological Survey (USGS) Astrogeology Research Program. The Phaethontis quadrangle is also referred to as MC-24 (Mars Chart-24).[1] The Phaethontis quadrangle lies between 30° and 65 ° south latitude and 120° and 180 ° west longitude on Mars. This latitude range is where numerous gullies have been discovered. An old feature in this area, called Terra Sirenum lies in this quadrangle; Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter discovered iron/magnesium smectites there.[2] Part of this quadrangle contains what is called the Electris deposits, a deposit that is 100–200 meters thick. It is light-toned and appears to be weak because of few boulders.[3] Among a group of large craters is Mariner Crater, first observed by the Mariner IV spacecraft in the summer of 1965. It was named after that spacecraft.[4] A low area in Terra Sirenum is believed to have once held a lake that eventually drained through Ma'adim Vallis.[5][6] Russia's Mars 3 probe landed in the Phaethontis quadrangle at 44.9° S and 160.1° W in December 1971. It landed at a speed of 75 km per hour, but survived to radio back 20 seconds of signal, then it went dead. Its message just appeared as a blank screen.[7]

Martian Gullies[edit]

Main article: Martian Gullies

The Phaethontis quadrangle is the location of many gullies that may be due to recent flowing water. Some are found in the Gorgonum Chaos[8][9] and in many craters near the large craters Copernicus and Newton (Martian crater).[10][11] Gullies occur on steep slopes, especially on the walls of craters. Gullies are believed to be relatively young because they have few, if any craters. Moreover, they lie on top of sand dunes which themselves are considered to be quite young. Usually, each gully has an alcove, channel, and apron. Some studies have found that gullies occur on slopes that face all directions,[12] others have found that the greater number of gullies are found on poleward facing slopes, especially from 30-44 S.[13]

Although many ideas have been put forward to explain them,[14] the most popular involve liquid water coming from an aquifer, from melting at the base of old glaciers, or from the melting of ice in the ground when the climate was warmer.[15][16] Because of the good possibility that liquid water was involved with their formation and that they could be very young, scientists are excited. Maybe the gullies are where we should go to find life.

There is evidence for all three theories. Most of the gully alcove heads occur at the same level, just as one would expect of an aquifer. Various measurements and calculations show that liquid water could exist in aquifers at the usual depths where gullies begin.[15] One variation of this model is that rising hot magma could have melted ice in the ground and caused water to flow in aquifers. Aquifers are layer that allow water to flow. They may consist of porous sandstone. The aquifer layer would be perched on top of another layer that prevents water from going down (in geological terms it would be called impermeable). Because water in an aquifer is prevented from going down, the only direction the trapped water can flow is horizontally. Eventually, water could flow out onto the surface when the aquifer reaches a break—like a crater wall. The resulting flow of water could erode the wall to create gullies.[17] Aquifers are quite common on Earth. A good example is "Weeping Rock" in Zion National Park Utah.[18]

As for the next theory, much of the surface of Mars is covered by a thick smooth mantle that is thought to be a mixture of ice and dust.[19][20][21] This ice-rich mantle, a few yards thick, smoothes the land, but in places it has a bumpy texture, resembling the surface of a basketball. The mantle may be like a glacier and under certain conditions the ice that is mixed in the mantle could melt and flow down the slopes and make gullies.[22][23] Because there are few craters on this mantle, the mantle is relatively young. An excellent view of this mantle is shown below in the picture of the Ptolemaeus Crater Rim, as seen by HiRISE.[24] The ice-rich mantle may be the result of climate changes.[25] Changes in Mars's orbit and tilt cause significant changes in the distribution of water ice from polar regions down to latitudes equivalent to Texas. During certain climate periods water vapor leaves polar ice and enters the atmosphere. The water comes back to ground at lower latitudes as deposits of frost or snow mixed generously with dust. The atmosphere of Mars contains a great deal of fine dust particles. Water vapor will condense on the particles, then fall down to the ground due to the additional weight of the water coating. When Mars is at its greatest tilt or obliquity, up to 2 cm of ice could be removed from the summer ice cap and deposited at midlatitudes. This movement of water could last for several thousand years and create a snow layer of up to around 10 meters thick.[26][27] When ice at the top of the mantling layer goes back into the atmosphere, it leaves behind dust, which insulating the remaining ice.[28] Measurements of altitudes and slopes of gullies support the idea that snowpacks or glaciers are associated with gullies. Steeper slopes have more shade which would preserve snow.[13] Higher elevations have far fewer gullies because ice would tend to sublimate more in the thin air of the higher altitude.[29]

The third theory might be possible since climate changes may be enough to simply allow ice in the ground to melt and thus form the gullies. During a warmer climate, the first few meters of ground could thaw and produce a "debris flow" similar to those on the dry and cold Greenland east coast.[30] Since the gullies occur on steep slopes only a small decrease of the shear strength of the soil particles is needed to begin the flow. Small amounts of liquid water from melted ground ice could be enough.[31][32] Calculations show that a third of a mm of runoff can be produced each day for 50 days of each Martian year, even under current conditions.[33]

Tongue-shaped glaciers[edit]

Concentric crater fill[edit]

Concentric crater fill, like lobate debris aprons and lineated valley fill, is believed to be ice-rich.[34] Based on accurate topography measures of height at different points in these craters and calculations of how deep the craters should be based on their diameters, it is thought that the craters are 80% filled with mostly ice.[35][36][37][38] That is, they hold hundreds of meters of material that probably consists of ice with a few tens of meters of surface debris.[39][40] The ice accumulated in the crater from snowfall in previous climates.[41][42][43] Recent modeling suggests that concentric crater fill develops over many cycles in which snow is deposited, then moves into the crater. Once inside the crater shade and dust preserve the snow. The snow changes to ice. The many concentric lines are created by the many cycles of snow accumulation. Generally snow accumulates whenever the axial tilt reaches 35 degrees.[44]

Magnetic Stripes and Plate Tectonics[edit]

The Mars Global Surveyor (MGS) discovered magnetic stripes in the crust of Mars, especially in the Phaethontis and Eridania quadrangles (Terra Cimmeria and Terra Sirenum).[45][46] The magnetometer on MGS discovered 100 km wide stripes of magnetized crust running roughly parallel for up to 2000 km. These stripes alternate in polarity with the north magnetic pole of one pointing up from the surface and the north magnetic pole of the next pointing down.[47] When similar stripes were discovered on Earth in the 1960s, they were taken as evidence of plate tectonics. Researchers believe these magnetic stripes on Mars are evidence for an short, early period of plate tectonic activity. When the rocks became solid they retained the magnetism that existed at the time. A magnetic field of a planet is believed to be caused by fluid motions under the surface.[48][49][50] However, there are some differences, between the magnetic stripes on Earth and those on Mars. The Martian stripes are wider, much more strongly magnetized, and do not appear to spread out from a middle crustal spreading zone. Because the area containing the magnetic stripes is about 4 billion years old, it is believed that the global magnetic field probably lasted for only the first few hundred million years of Mars' life, when the temperature of the molten iron in the planet's core might have been high enough to mix it into a magnetic dynamo. There are no magnetic fields near large impact basins like Hellas. The shock of the impact may have erased the remnant magnetization in the rock. So, magnetism produced by early fluid motion in the core would not have existed after the impacts.[51]

When molten rock containing magnetic material, such as hematite (Fe2O3), cools and solidifies in the presence of a magnetic field, it becomes magnetized and takes on the polarity of the background field. This magnetism is lost only if the rock is subsequently heated above a particular temperature (the Curie point which is 770 °C for iron). The magnetism left in rocks is a record of the magnetic field when the rock solidified.[52]

Chloride Deposits[edit]

Using data from Mars Global Surveyor, Mars Odyssey and the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, scientists have found widespread deposits of chloride minerals. A picture below shows some deposits within the Phaethontis quadrangle. Evidence suggests that the deposits were formed from the evaporation of mineral enriched waters. The research suggests that lakes may have been scattered over large areas of the Martian surface. Usually chlorides are the last minerals to come out of solution. Carbonates, sulfates, and silica should precipitate out ahead of them. Sulfates and silica have been found by the Mars Rovers on the surface. Places with chloride minerals may have once held various life forms. Furthermore, such areas should preserve traces of ancient life.[53]

Based on chloride deposits and hydrated phyllosilicates, Alfonso Davila and others believe there is an ancient lakebed in Terra Sirenum that had an area of 30,000 km2 and was 200 meters deep. Other evidence that supports this lake are normal and inverted channels like ones found in the Atacama desert.[54]

Fossae in Phaethontis quadrangle[edit]

Strange Surfaces in Phaethontis quadrangle[edit]

Craters in Phaethontis quadrangle[edit]

Gallery[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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External links[edit]

Mars Quad Map
About this image
0°N 180°W / 0°N 180°W / 0; -180
0°N 0°W / 0°N -0°E / 0; -0
90°N 0°W / 90°N -0°E / 90; -0
MC-01

Mare Boreum
MC-02

Diacria
MC-03

Arcadia
MC-04

Mare Acidalium
MC-05

Ismenius Lacus
MC-06

Casius
MC-07

Cebrenia
MC-08

Amazonis
MC-09

Tharsis
MC-10

Lunae Palus
MC-11

Oxia Palus
MC-12

Arabia
MC-13

Syrtis Major
MC-14

Amenthes
MC-15

Elysium
MC-16

Memnonia
MC-17

Phoenicis
MC-18

Coprates
MC-19

Margaritifer
MC-20

Sabaeus
MC-21

Iapygia
MC-22

Tyrrhenum
MC-23

Aeolis
MC-24

Phaethontis
MC-25

Thaumasia
MC-26

Argyre
MC-27

Noachis
MC-28

Hellas
MC-29

Eridania
MC-30

Mare Australe