Analyzing spatial distributions and alignments of pitted cone features in Utopia Planitia on Mars

M. M. Mills, A. S. McEwen, A. N. Hughes, J. E. Kim, C. H. Okubo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Martian geomorphology and surface features provide links to understanding past geologic processes such as fluid movement, local and regional tectonics, and feature formation mechanisms. Pitted cones are common features in the northern plains basins of Mars. They have been proposed to have formed from upwelling volatile-rich fluids, such as magma or water-sediment slurries. In this study, we map the spatial distributions of pitted cone features across the Utopia Planitia (UP) basin. Using the Average Nearest Neighbor technique, we find that pitted cone features appear to be clustered across the basin, occurring in a narrow band around the circumferential rim of UP. Additionally, we find that pitted cone features also appear to be aligned in chains that are sub-parallel with the basin margin. Parallel bands of cones generally follow elevation contours of the UP basin, which suggests elevation or a correlated factor plays a major role in pitted cone and cone chain formation. We propose that pitted cones and cone chains may be related to vertical fractures formed around the UP basin rim from subsidence of infilling basin material.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number115825
StatePublished - Jan 15 2024


  • Geomorphology
  • Mars
  • Pitted cone
  • Utopia Planitia

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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