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Interpretation and analysis of planetary structures

December 31, 2010

Structural geology is an integral part of planetary science. Planetary structures provide the framework for determining the character and sequence of crustal deformation while simultaneously establishing the observational basis required to test geodynamic hypotheses for the deformation of planetary and satellite lithospheres. The availability of datasets that record spatial and topographic information with a resolution that matches or, in many cases, exceeds, what is available for Earth-based studies permits the deformation of several planets and satellites to be investigated down to the local or outcrop scales. The geometry and kinematics of common planetary structures such as joints, igneous dikes, deformation bands, faults, and folds can be determined with confidence from their distinctive morphologic and topographic signatures, enabling the structural histories and deformation magnitudes to be determined. Segmentation, displacement profiles, relay ramps, footwall anticlines, displacement-controlled depocenters, and other well-known characteristics of terrestrial normal fault and graben systems reveal the sequence and processes of fault growth in numerous planetary examples. Systems of thrust faults having both blind and surface-breaking components are important elements on several bodies including Mercury, the Moon, and Mars. Strike-slip faults have been identified on bodies including Mars and Europa with oblique extension found on Ganymede. Using field-based studies of Earth-based structures as a guide, planetary structures provide a means to explore and evaluate the causative stresses. Despite the wide range in structural styles across the solar system, plate tectonics is recognized only on the Earth, with the other planets and satellites deforming in the absence of large-scale horizontal motions and attendant plate recycling.

Citation Information

Publication Year 2010
Title Interpretation and analysis of planetary structures
DOI 10.1016/j.jsg.2009.09.005
Authors Richard A. Schultz, Ernst Hauber, Simon A. Kattenhorn, Chris H. Okubo, Thomas R. Watters
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Journal of Structural Geology
Series Number
Index ID 70201981
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Astrogeology Science Center

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