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Gallagher C.,University College Dublin | Balme M.,Open University Milton Keynes | Balme M.,Planetary Science Institute Tucson
Earth and Planetary Science Letters | Year: 2015

Although glacial landsystems produced under warm/wet based conditions are very common on Earth, even here, observations of subglacial landforms such as eskers emerging from extant glaciers are rare. This paper describes a system of sinuous ridges emerging from the in situ but now degraded piedmont terminus of a Late Amazonian-aged (~150 Ma) glacier-like form in the southern Phlegra Montes region of Mars. We believe this to be the first identification of martian eskers that can be directly linked to their parent glacier. Together with their contextual landform assemblage, the eskers are indicative of significant glacial meltwater production and subglacial routing. However, although the eskers are evidence of a wet-based regime, the confinement of the glacial system to a well-defined, regionally significant graben, and the absence of eskers elsewhere in the region, is interpreted as evidence of sub-glacial melting as a response to locally enhanced geothermal heat flux rather than climate-induced warming. These observations offer important new insights to the forcing of glacial dynamic and melting behaviour on Mars by factors other than climate. © 2015 Elsevier B.V.

Balme M.R.,Open University Milton Keynes | Balme M.R.,Planetary Science Institute Tucson | Gallagher C.J.,University College Dublin | Hauber E.,Institute For Planetenforschung
Progress in Physical Geography | Year: 2013

Liquid water is generally only meta-stable on Mars today; it quickly freezes, evaporates or boils in the cold, dry, thin atmosphere (surface pressure is about 200 times lower than on Earth). Nevertheless, there is morphological evidence that surface water was extensive in more ancient times, including the Noachian Epoch (∼4.1 Ga to ∼3.7 Ga bp), when large lakes existed and river-like channel networks were incised, and early in the Hesperian Epoch (∼3.7 Ga to ∼2.9 Ga bp), when megafloods carved enormous channels and smaller fluvial networks developed in association with crater-lakes. However, by the Amazonian Epoch (∼3.0 Ga to present), most surface morphogenesis associated with liquid water had ceased, with long periods of water sequestration as ice in the near-surface and polar regions. However, inferences from observations using imaging data with sub-metre pixel sizes indicate that periglacial landscapes, involving morphogenesis associated with ground-ice and/or surface-ice thaw and liquid flows, has been active within the last few million years. In this paper, three such landform assemblages are described: a high-latitude assemblage comprising features interpreted to be sorted clastic stripes, circles and polygons, non-sorted polygonally patterned ground, fluvial gullies, and solifluction lobes; a mid-latitude assemblage comprising gullies, patterned ground, debris-covered glaciers and hillslope stripes; and an equatorial assemblage of linked basins, patterned ground, possible pingos, and channel-and-scarp features interpreted to be retrogressive thaw-slumps. Hypotheses to explain these observations are explored, including recent climate change, and hydrated minerals in the regolith 'thawing' to form liquid brines at very low temperatures. The use of terrestrial analogue field sites is also discussed. © The Author(s) 2013.

Tricarico P.,Planetary Science Institute Tucson
Geophysical Research Letters | Year: 2015

When comet C/2013 A1 (Siding Spring) passed nearby Mars in 2014, it offered an unprecedented opportunity to observe the interaction between the dust tail of the comet and the atmosphere of Mars. Here I provide an overview of a recent series of four articles reporting observations from three satellites fortuitously orbiting Mars at the appropriate time (MAVEN, MEX, and MRO). These observations reveal high-velocity ablation and ionization of metals from the comet, the diffusion and transport processes that operated in Mars' atmosphere, and the abundance of these metals in the comet. © 2015. American Geophysical Union. All Rights Reserved.

Bish D.L.,Indiana University Bloomington | Dyar M.D.,Mount Holyoke College | Sharp T.G.,Arizona State University | Michalski J.R.,Planetary Science Institute Tucson
Journal of Geophysical Research E: Planets | Year: 2015

Many phyllosilicate deposits remotely detected on Mars occur within bombarded terrains. Shock metamorphism from meteor impacts alters mineral structures, producing changed mineral spectra. Thus, impacts have likely affected the spectra of remotely sensed Martian phyllosilicates. We present spectral analysis results for a natural nontronite sample before and after laboratory-generated impacts over five peak pressures between 10 and 40GPa. We conducted a suite of spectroscopic analyses to characterize the sample's impact-induced structural and spectral changes. Nontronite becomes increasingly disordered with increasing peak impact pressure. Every infrared spectroscopic technique used showed evidence of structural changes at shock pressures above ~25GPa. Reflectance spectroscopy in the visible near-infrared region is primarily sensitive to the vibrations of metal-OH and interlayer H2O groups in the nontronite octahedral sheet. Midinfrared (MIR) spectroscopic techniques are sensitive to the vibrations of silicon and oxygen in the nontronite tetrahedral sheet. Because the tetrahedral and octahedral sheets of nontronite deform differently, impact-driven structural deformation may contribute to differences in phyllosilicate detection between remote sensing techniques sensitive to different parts of the nontronite structure. Observed spectroscopic changes also indicated that the sample's octahedral and tetrahedral sheets were structurally deformed but not completely dehydroxylated. This finding is an important distinction from previous studies of thermally altered phyllosilicates in which dehydroxylation follows dehydration in a stepwise progression preceding structural deformation. Impact alteration may thus complicate mineral-specific identifications based on the location of OH-group bands in remotely detected spectra. This is a key implication for Martian remote sensing arising from our results. © 2015. American Geophysical Union. All Rights Reserved.

Thomsen M.F.,Planetary Science Institute Tucson | Mitchell D.G.,Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory Laurel | Jia X.,University of Michigan | Jackman C.M.,University of Southampton | And 2 more authors.
Journal of Geophysical Research A: Space Physics | Year: 2015

Cassini observations during a rapid, high-latitude, dawnside pass from Saturn's lobe to inner magnetosphere on 25 June 2009 provide strong evidence for the formation of a "plasmapause" at Saturn by Vasyliunas-type nightside reconnection of previously mass-loaded flux tubes. A population of hot, tenuous plasma that lies between the lobe and the dense inner magnetospheric plasma is consistent with a region formed by very recent injection from a reconnection region in the tail, including low density, high temperature, supercorotational flow, a significant O+ content, and the near-simultaneous observation of enhanced Saturn kilometric radiation emissions. The sharp boundary between that region and the cool dense inner magnetospheric plasma thus separates flux tubes that were involved in the reconnection from those that successfully traversed the nightside without mass loss. This event demonstrates that tail reconnection can strip off inner magnetospheric plasma in to at least dipole L=8.6. Clear evidence of flux tube interchange driven by the sharp boundary is found, both inward moving flux tubes of hotter plasma and, for the first time, the outward moving cool population. The outward moving cool regions have azimuthal sizes less than 1RS, were probably created within the past 1.2h, and have outflow speeds greater than about 5km/s. At the outer edge of the reconnected region, there is also a possible signature of Dungey-type lobe reconnection following the initial Vasyliunas-type reconnection. Observations from this event are entirely consistent with previously described global MHD simulations of tail reconnection, plasmoid departure, and Saturnward injection of reconnected flux. ©2015. American Geophysical Union.

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