Fluvial flow triggered by impact events on Mars
Images and caption contributed by Andrea Jones, Lunar and Planetary Institute/NASA Goddard Space Flight Center
In memory of our dear friend and colleague Dr. Elisabetta (Betty) Pierazzo
Hale crater is a 125x150 km impact crater located near the intersection of Uzboi Vallis and the northern rim of Argyre basin on Mars, at 35.7ºS, 323.6ºE. Hale is an unusual crater on Mars because it is modified by fluvial channels. The channels originate from the outer edges of Hale’s ejecta and extend as far as 460 km from the crater rim (Image 1). They are upto a few kilometers wide, exhibit a braided planform (Image 2), and had sufficient stream power to incise and transport the crater ejecta. Most of the channels are found to the south-southwest of Hale crater, on the northern slope of Argyre basin (Image 3).
Image 1: Channels in the southeastern ejecta of Hale crater, Mars in a THEMIS daytime-infrared mosaic. The channels were likely carved with water mobilized by the Hale-forming impact event. White box is location of Image 2. North is up in all images.
Image 2: Detailed view of fluvial channel flowing through crater ejecta. CTX image
Location is shown in Image 1.
Hale’s channels appear to have formed in response to the crater-forming impact event. The impactor is thought to have struck an ice-rich crust. Heat from the impact could have melted subsurface ice, mobilizing liquid water, which then carved the surrounding channels. Hale crater demonstrates the role impact events may have played in supplying the Martian surface with liquid water, particularly early in the history of the Solar System when larger, more frequent impact events were common.
Image 3: Context image of Hale crater (center) and surrounding terrain in daytime infrared. Hale crater is located is the rim of Argyre basin, which defines the regional slope-break in the image. Relatively smooth plains are found outside the basin to the top right of the image; rougher terrain is found on the wall of the basin, which opens to the image bottom left. The black rectangle indicates the approximate boundary of Image 1. Image captured from Google Mars.
Hale’s channels are rare, but other impact craters on Mars appear to have associated impact-generated fluvially-modified channels as well, including Mojave (7.6ºN, 327.0ºE), Tooting (23.4ºN, 207.5ºE), Zunil (7.7ºN, 166ºE), and Sinton (40.4ºN, 31.4ºE). All of the known impact craters with associated channels, including Hale, appear to be very well preserved. It is possible that channels once surrounded other older and/or more heavily modified impact craters, but were then erased or modified over time and are no longer recognizable. As more high-resolution images return from Mars, more evidence of channels surrounding impact craters may be revealed.
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