Arecibo radar imagery of Mars: II. Chryse–Xanthe, polar caps, and other regions

John K. Harmon, Michael C. Nolan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


We conclude our radar imaging survey of Mars, which maps spatial variations in depolarized radar reflectivity using Arecibo S-band (λ12.6 cm) observations from 2005–2012. Whereas our earlier paper (Harmon et al., 2012, Arecibo radar imagery of Mars: the major volcanic provinces. Icarus 220, 990–1030) covered the volcanic regions of Tharsis, Elysium, and Amazonis, this paper includes non-volcanic regions where hydrologic and impact processes can be the dominant resurfacing agents affecting radar backscatter. Many of the more prominent and interesting radar-bright features outside the major volcanic provinces are located in and around Chryse Planitia and Xanthe Terra. These features are identified with: a basin in northeast Lunae Planum containing the combined deposits from Maja Vallis and Ganges Catena outflows; channel outwash plains in western and southern Chryse basin; plateaus bordering chasma/chaos zones, where surface modification may have resulted from hydrologic action associated with incipient chaos formation; and some bright-ejecta craters in Chryse basin, of a type otherwise rare on Mars. Dark-halo craters have also been identified in Chryse and elsewhere that are similar to those seen in the volcanic provinces. Although the cratered highlands are relatively radar-bland, they do exhibit some bright depolarized features; these include eroded crater rims, several unusual ejecta flows and impact melts, and terrain-softened plains. The rims of large impact basins (Hellas, Argyre, Isidis) show a variety of radar-bright features provisionally identified with massif slopes, erosion sediments, eroded pyroclastics, impact melts, and glacial deposits. The interiors of these basins are largely radar-dark, which is consistent with coverage by rock-free sediments. Tempe Terra and Acheron Fossae show bright features possibly associated with rift volcanism or eroded tectonic structures, and northwest Tempe Terra shows one very bright feature associated with glacial or other ice processes in the dichotomy boundary region. The first delay-Doppler images of the radar-bright features from the north and south polar icecaps are presented. Both poles show the circular polarization inversion and high reflectivity characteristic of coherent volume backscatter from relatively clean ice. The south polar feature is primarily backscatter from the residual CO2 icecap (with a lesser contribution from the polar layered deposits), whose finite optical depth probably accounts for the feature's strong S/X-band wavelength dependence. Conversely, the north polar radar feature appears to be mostly backscatter from the H2O-ice-rich polar layered deposits rather than from the thin residual H2O cap. The north polar region shows additional radar-bright features from Korolev Crater and a few other outlying circumpolar ice deposits.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)162-199
Number of pages38
StatePublished - Jan 1 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • Mars
  • Mars
  • Radar observations
  • Surface

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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