Astronomy

An Introduction to the Landforms of Mars Basic Landforms of Mars



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The basic and prominent land forms of Mars are powerful and significant reminders that each planet in our solar system is a unique and incredible place.

The most important fact about the major landforms on Mars is their size. Most of the Martian land forms are so large that Earth's largest mountains, canyons and volcanoes must be multiplied many times in order to make comparisons.

On the broadest level, Mars has different land formations on each hemisphere: The northern hemisphere has large volcanoes and sparsely cratered volcanic plains. Formations in the northern hemisphere are younger and, on average, lower in elevation than the volcanic lands of the south. The southern hemisphere has an older and more heavily cratered terrain. 

The uplands and lowlands: The uplands are vast, elevated formations that are generally in the southern hemisphere and the lowlands are generally in the northern hemisphere. The terms "uplands" and "lowlands" are frequently used to describe the location of major features of Mars.

There are no Martian Canals: These straight lines were once believed to have been intelligently created canals. They are determined to have been visual errors that came from poor resolution in the telescopes of a hundred years ago. That did not stop a lot of great science fiction from happening.

The craters: About 3.8 billion years ago, there was heavy bombardment and impact in the southern uplands. The northern plains are much more heavily cratered than the southern uplands. Crater density was used to age date the surface of Mars, and the northern uplands were determined to be younger than the southern uplands. 

The Flood channels: These are found in three areas. The Chryse basin, the northeast rim of Hellas impact basin, and valley channels within the oldest terrain are believed to have contained water.

The major Impact Basins: The two largest impact basins are the 1800 kilometer wide Hellas crater and Argyre which is 700 km wide. Both reside in the southern uplands.

The Permanent ice caps: The ice is mostly water and frozen CO2. These are located at the extreme north and south poles.

The large volcanoes: Most of the 12 largest volcanoes on Mars reside along the Tharsis Bulge. Olympus Mons is on the northwest flank of Tharsis Bulge. This is the largest volcano at 17 miles in height and 600 miles in diameter. Arsia Mons is a shield volcano that is about 270 miles in diameter and 12 miles high.

The Tharsis Bulge: The Tharsis Bulge is a massive area about the size of the North America that sits on one side of Mars. The Tharsis bulge is 10 kilometers high and is is topped with four massive volcanoes that add another 15 kilometers in height.

Canyons: Valle Marineris goes from east to west and is enormous. This canyon is a crack that came from the crust pulling apart and not from water erosion. This canyon crosses one fifth of the surface of Mars. It is 4,000 km long, 200 km wide and up to 7 km deep,according to NASA.

Periodic bedrock ridges: These are the newest class of land form on Mars. According to Science Daily, "The ridges look like sand dunes but, rather than being made from material piled up by the wind, the scientists say the ridges actually form from wind erosion of bedrock."

PURDUE UNIVERSITY "EAS 105-THE PLANETS" by Professor Murdoch offers a good basic survey of the major features of Mars.

NASA has a fascinating interactive site called "Welcome to the Planets" with descriptions of many of the land forms of Mars. 


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ARTICLE SOURCES AND CITATIONS
  • InfoBoxCallToAction ActionArrowhttp://pds.jpl.nasa.gov/planets/captions/mars/marscany.htm
  • InfoBoxCallToAction ActionArrowhttp://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/03/120322131351.htm
  • InfoBoxCallToAction ActionArrowhttp://web.ics.purdue.edu/~nowack/geos105/lect13-dir/lecture13.htm
  • InfoBoxCallToAction ActionArrowhttp://pds.jpl.nasa.gov/planets/welcome.htm