Ancient river systems on Mars: geological studies using high-resolution images and Digital Terrain Models

Lead Research Organisation: The Open University
Department Name: Faculty of Sci, Tech, Eng & Maths (STEM)


- Study "inverted fluvial channels" (ancient preserved river systems) on Mars using the latest high-resolution images and terrain models, with the aim of understanding the timing and extent of fluvial activity during the period of Mars' history most relevant to the search for signs of past life.
- The project will focus on the Arabia Terra region of Mars - an ancient and heavily degraded region that includes both candidate ExoMars Rover landing sites. The project will include mapping inverted channels systems and possible lake deposits in Antoniadi Crater (e.g.
Description: The Arabia Terra region of Mars sits north of the equator, between the ancient southern highlands and the more recently emplaced northern plains of Mars. The region underwent significant deposition of sediments and significant erosion during Mars' most ancient "Noachian" period. Recently, Arabia Terra has been observed to contain evidence for significant fluvial activity in the form of extensive, but discontinuous fluvial "inverted channels" [1]. These features are the preserved remnants of ancient riverbeds. They now form upstanding ridges because the channels are more erosion resistant than the terrains surrounding them.
In this project, we will first take a synoptic view, using both high-resolution (HiRISE, 25cm/pixel) and medium resolution (Cassis and CTX, 5-6 m/pixel) images to study the channel systems in detail by detailing their morphology, stratigraphy, and erosional style across the area. Key elements of this study include developing a classification scheme for the channels, constraining the variations in morphology and stratigraphy, and comparing and contrasting them with terrestrial fluvial inverted channels [e.g., 2], and with inverted and conventional fluvial channels elsewhere on Mars [e.g., 3].
The second part of the project will focus on a specific area - Antoniadi crater. Antoniadi Crater represent a microcosm for the late Noachian environment: it is a crater lake with Noachian-aged outlet channel , and the floor of the crater hosts diverse terrains ranging from truly dendritic inverted channel systems spatially associated with polygonised terrains and sediment fan-like landforms, to surfaces uplifted by volcanic intrusions and small scale volcanic edifices. Importantly, the timing of events in Antoniadi Crater can be bracketed by superposing large impact craters and other geological events, such as emplacement of lava flows from the nearby Syrtis Major volcanic province. The successful student will produce a geological/geomorphological map of the region to build a refined view of the history of flowing water on ancient Mars.


10 25 50