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Sedimentary deposits in the northern lowland plains, Mars

November 30, 1986

The lowland plains on Mars have surfaces marked by large polygonal fracture patterns. It was recently proposed that the fracture patterns were developed on sedimentary deposits from outflow channels. We support this hypothesis because of the following observations. (1) Polygonal fracture patterns tend to occur in low areas on Mars that apparently received influx of sediments; the area of northern plains, in which the fractures occur, also forms a regional low. (2) The fracture patterns are concentrated near reentrants of the plains projecting into the southern highlands. Not only are these reentrants associated with outflow channels, but channels and polygonally fractured deposits have similar ages. (3) Sinuous ridges at the mouths of Martian outflow channels resemble ridges in Antarctic ice streams and ice shelves; the similarity suggests that the Martian material was transported from the southern highlands toward the northern plains, as the Antarctic material is transported from the continent toward the adjacent ocean. Overall, it appears that a massive transfer of material took place midway in Martian history, either through the outflow channels or elsewhere along the northern highland scarp, and that this material probably formed the deposits now characterized by polygonal fracture patterns.