Investigating the volcanic versus aqueous origin of the surficial deposits in Eastern Elysium Planitia, Mars

Joana R.C. Voigt, Christopher W. Hamilton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Scopus citations


The Elysium Volcanic Province consists of numerous overlapping flow units and may include the youngest lava flows on Mars. However, it is possible that these volcanic units have been modified or overprinted by aqueous processes. Understanding the timing of the igneous and aqueous events in this region is therefore essential for constraining the geological and environmental history of Mars during the Amazonian Period. We investigate the geologic evolution of Eastern Elysium Planitia to determine the relationship between major units, with the support of a geological map and chronological constraints from crater size–frequency distributions. We also evaluate the hypothesized origin of these units via volcanic, fluvial, and/or fluvioglacial processes using a detailed facies-mapping approach. The study area includes the Eastern Cerberus Fossae, Rahway Valles, and Marte Vallis. The surficial deposits in Rahway Valles were formerly interpreted to be modified by fluvial and fluvioglacial processes. However, our facies map reveals that the surface of Eastern Elysium Planitia includes nineteen morphologically distinct regions (i.e., facies), which are interpreted to be the products of flood lava volcanism, including: ʻaʻā pāhoehoe, and transitional lava flow types. In contrast to previous studies, which determined that Rahway Valles and Marte Vallis consist of two distinct geologic units with Middle to Late Amazonian ages, the results of this work show that the region was resurfaced by at least two volcanic flows with much younger ages of 20.0 Ma and 8.8 Ma. Furthermore, by coupling results of our geologic and facies mapping with chronological constraints as well as subsurface information provided by Shallow Radar reflectors, we show that there is an erosional unconformity located between the two youngest lava flow units in Marte Vallis. We interpret that this unconformity was generated by a catastrophic aqueous flooding event that occurred only 8.8 − 20.0 Ma ago. This implies alternating episodes of volcanism and aqueous flooding that have continued into the geologically recent past on Mars, and may again occur within Elysium Planitia.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)389-410
Number of pages22
StatePublished - Jul 15 2018

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


Dive into the research topics of 'Investigating the volcanic versus aqueous origin of the surficial deposits in Eastern Elysium Planitia, Mars'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this