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Utopia Planitia

Coordinates: 46°42′N 117°30′E / 46.7°N 117.5°E / 46.7; 117.5
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Utopia Planitia
Viking 2 lander view of ice in the form of morning frosts in Utopia Planitia (false color)
Feature typeImpact basin
LocationNortheast of Isidis Planitia, northwest of Aetheria
Coordinates46°42′N 117°30′E / 46.7°N 117.5°E / 46.7; 117.5
Diameter3,300 km (2,100 mi).[1]

Utopia Planitia (Greek and Latin: "Utopia Land Plain") is a large plain[2] within Utopia, the largest recognized impact basin on Mars[a] and in the Solar System with an estimated diameter of 3,300 km (2,100 mi).[1] It is the Martian region where the Viking 2 lander touched down and began exploring on September 3, 1976, and the Zhurong rover touched down on May 14, 2021, as a part of the Tianwen-1 mission.[4][5] It is located at the antipode of Argyre Planitia, centered at 46°42′N 117°30′E / 46.7°N 117.5°E / 46.7; 117.5.[2] It is also in the Casius quadrangle, Amenthes quadrangle, and the Cebrenia quadrangle of Mars.

Many rocks at Utopia Planitia appear perched, as if wind removed much of the soil at their bases.[6][7] A hard surface crust is formed by solutions of minerals moving up through soil and evaporating at the surface.[8] Some areas of the surface exhibit scalloped topography, a surface that looks like it was carved out by an ice cream scoop. This surface is thought to have formed by the degradation of an ice-rich permafrost.[9] Many features that look like pingos on the Earth are found in Utopia Planitia (~35–50° N; ~80–115° E).[10]

On November 22, 2016, NASA reported finding a large amount of underground ice in the Utopia Planitia region. The volume of water detected has been estimated to be equivalent to the volume of water in Lake Superior.[11][12][13]

Scalloped topography

Utopia Planitia
Scalloped terrain led to the discovery of a large amount of underground ice
enough water to fill Lake Superior[11][12][13]
Martian terrain
Map of terrain

Scalloped topography is common in the mid-latitudes of Mars, between 45° and 60° north and south. It is particularly prominent in the region of Utopia Planitia[14][15] in the northern hemisphere and in the region of Peneus and Amphitrites Patera[16][17] in the southern hemisphere. Such topography consists of shallow, rimless depressions with scalloped edges, commonly referred to as scalloped depressions or simply scallops. Scalloped depressions can be isolated or clustered and sometimes seem to coalesce. A typical scalloped depression displays a gentle equator-facing slope and a steeper pole-facing scarp. This topographic asymmetry is probably due to differences in insolation. Scalloped depressions are believed to form from the removal of subsurface material, possibly interstitial ice, by sublimation. This process may still be happening at present.[18]

Pedestal craters


Polygonal patterned ground


Polygonal, patterned ground is quite common in some regions of Mars.[20][21][22][23][24][25] It is commonly believed to be caused by the sublimation of ice from the ground. Sublimation is the direct change of solid ice to a gas. This is similar to what happens to dry ice on the Earth. Places on Mars that display polygonal ground may indicate where future colonists can find water ice. Patterned ground forms in a mantle layer, called latitude dependent mantle, that fell from the sky when the climate was different.[26][27][28][29]

Other features in Utopia Planitia

Viking 2 lander image of North Utopia Planitia.

In the Star Trek media franchise, Utopia Planitia—both on Mars' surface and a space station in areosynchronous orbit above it—is the site of a major United Federation of Planets shipyard, the Utopia Planitia Fleet Yards. Ships such as the USS Enterprise-D, USS Defiant, USS Voyager and USS Sao Paulo were built there.[30]

Interactive Mars map

Map of MarsAcheron FossaeAcidalia PlanitiaAlba MonsAmazonis PlanitiaAonia PlanitiaArabia TerraArcadia PlanitiaArgentea PlanumArgyre PlanitiaChryse PlanitiaClaritas FossaeCydonia MensaeDaedalia PlanumElysium MonsElysium PlanitiaGale craterHadriaca PateraHellas MontesHellas PlanitiaHesperia PlanumHolden craterIcaria PlanumIsidis PlanitiaJezero craterLomonosov craterLucus PlanumLycus SulciLyot craterLunae PlanumMalea PlanumMaraldi craterMareotis FossaeMareotis TempeMargaritifer TerraMie craterMilankovič craterNepenthes MensaeNereidum MontesNilosyrtis MensaeNoachis TerraOlympica FossaeOlympus MonsPlanum AustralePromethei TerraProtonilus MensaeSirenumSisyphi PlanumSolis PlanumSyria PlanumTantalus FossaeTempe TerraTerra CimmeriaTerra SabaeaTerra SirenumTharsis MontesTractus CatenaTyrrhena TerraUlysses PateraUranius PateraUtopia PlanitiaValles MarinerisVastitas BorealisXanthe Terra
The image above contains clickable linksInteractive image map of the global topography of Mars. Hover your mouse over the image to see the names of over 60 prominent geographic features, and click to link to them. Coloring of the base map indicates relative elevations, based on data from the Mars Orbiter Laser Altimeter on NASA's Mars Global Surveyor. Whites and browns indicate the highest elevations (+12 to +8 km); followed by pinks and reds (+8 to +3 km); yellow is 0 km; greens and blues are lower elevations (down to −8 km). Axes are latitude and longitude; Polar regions are noted.

See also



  1. ^ Officially, Utopia is an albedo feature.[3]


  1. ^ a b McGill, G. E. (1989-03-10). "Buried topography of Utopia, Mars: Persistence of a giant impact depression". Journal of Geophysical Research. 94: 2753–2759. Bibcode:1989JGR....94.2753M. doi:10.1029/JB094iB03p02753.
  2. ^ a b "Utopia Planitia". Gazetteer of Planetary Nomenclature. USGS Astrogeology Science Center. Retrieved 2015-03-10.
  3. ^ "Utopia". Gazetteer of Planetary Nomenclature. USGS Astrogeology Science Center.
  4. ^ "China succeeds on country's first Mars landing attempt with Tianwen-1". nasaspaceglight.com. Retrieved May 15, 2021.
  5. ^ "China's first Mars rover Tianwen-1 launches this week. Here's what it will do". Space.com.
  6. ^ Mutch, T. et al. 1976. "The Surface of Mars: The View from the Viking 2 Lander". Science: 194. 1277–1283.
  7. ^ Hartmann, W. 2003. A Traveler's Guide to Mars. Workman Publishing. New York.
  8. ^ Arvidson, R. A. Binder, and K. Jones. 1976. "The Surface of Mars". Scientific American: 238. 76–89.
  9. ^ Sejourne, A. et al. 2012. Evidence of an eolian ice-rich and stratified permafrost in Utopia Planitia, Mars. Icarus. 60:248–254.
  10. ^ Soare, E., et al. 2019. Possible (closed system) pingo and ice-wedge/thermokarst complexes at the mid latitudes of Utopia Planitia, Mars. Icarus. doi:10.1016/j.icarus.2019.03.010
  11. ^ a b Staff (November 22, 2016). "Scalloped Terrain Led to Finding of Buried Ice on Mars". NASA. Retrieved November 23, 2016.
  12. ^ a b "Lake of frozen water the size of New Mexico found on Mars – NASA". The Register. November 22, 2016. Retrieved November 23, 2016.
  13. ^ a b "Mars Ice Deposit Holds as Much Water as Lake Superior". NASA. November 22, 2016. Retrieved November 23, 2016.
  14. ^ Lefort, A.; Russell, P. S.; Thomas, N.; McEwen, A. S.; Dundas, C. M.; Kirk, R. L. (2009). "Observations of periglacial landforms in Utopia Planitia with the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE)". Journal of Geophysical Research. 114 (E4): E04005. Bibcode:2009JGRE..114.4005L. doi:10.1029/2008JE003264.
  15. ^ Morgenstern, A; Hauber, E; Reiss, D; van Gasselt, S; Grosse, G; Schirrmeister, L (2007). "Deposition and degradation of a volatile-rich layer in Utopia Planitia, and implications for climate history on Mars" (PDF). Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets. 112 (E6): E06010. Bibcode:2007JGRE..112.6010M. doi:10.1029/2006JE002869.
  16. ^ Lefort, A.; Russell, P.S.; Thomas, N. (2010). "Scalloped terrains in the Peneus and Amphitrites Paterae region of Mars as observed by HiRISE". Icarus. 205 (1): 259. Bibcode:2010Icar..205..259L. doi:10.1016/j.icarus.2009.06.005.
  17. ^ Zanetti, M.; Hiesinger, H.; Reiss, D.; Hauber, E.; Neukum, G. (2009). "Scalloped Depression Development on Malea Planum and the Southern Wall of the Hellas Basin, Mars" (PDF). Lunar and Planetary Science. 40. p. 2178, abstract 2178. Bibcode:2009LPI....40.2178Z.
  18. ^ "HiRISE | Scallops and Polygons in the Utopia Planitia (PSP_007173_2245)". hirise.lpl.arizona.edu.
  19. ^ Dundas, C., S. Bryrne, A. McEwen. 2015. Modeling the development of martian sublimation thermokarst landforms. Icarus: 262, 154-169.
  20. ^ Kostama, V.-P., M. Kreslavsky, Head, J. 2006. Recent high-latitude icy mantle in the northern plains of Mars: Characteristics and ages of emplacement. Geophys. Res. Lett. 33 (L11201). doi:10.1029/2006GL025946.
  21. ^ Malin, M., Edgett, K. 2001. Mars Global Surveyor Mars Orbiter Camera: Interplanetary cruise through primary mission. J. Geophys. Res. 106 (E10), 23429–23540.
  22. ^ Milliken, R., et al. 2003. Viscous flow features on the surface of Mars: Observations from high-resolution Mars Orbiter Camera (MOC) images. J. Geophys. Res. 108 (E6). doi:10.1029/2002JE002005.
  23. ^ Mangold, N. 2005. High latitude patterned grounds on Mars: Classification, distribution and climatic control. Icarus 174, 336–359.
  24. ^ Kreslavsky, M., Head, J. 2000. Kilometer-scale roughness on Mars: Results from MOLA data analysis. J. Geophys. Res. 105 (E11), 26695–26712.
  25. ^ Seibert, N., J. Kargel. 2001. Small-scale martian polygonal terrain: Implications for liquid surface water. Geophys. Res. Lett. 28 (5), 899–902. S
  26. ^ Hecht, M. 2002. Metastability of water on Mars. Icarus 156, 373–386
  27. ^ Mustard, J., et al. 2001. Evidence for recent climate change on Mars from the identification of youthful near-surface ground ice. Nature 412 (6845), 411–414.
  28. ^ Kreslavsky, M.A., Head, J.W., 2002. High-latitude Recent Surface Mantle on Mars: New Results from MOLA and MOC. European Geophysical Society XXVII, Nice.
  29. ^ Head, J.W., Mustard, J.F., Kreslavsky, M.A., Milliken, R.E., Marchant, D.R., 2003. Recent ice ages on Mars. Nature 426 (6968), 797–802.
  30. ^ Okuda, Michael; Denise Okuda & Debbie Mirek (1999). The Star Trek Encyclopedia. Pocket Books. ISBN 0-671-53609-5.