Revealing Elysium Planitia's Young Geologic History: Constraints on Lava Emplacement, Areas, and Volumes

J. R.C. Voigt, C. W. Hamilton, G. Steinbrügge, M. S. Christoffersen, S. Nerozzi, L. Kerber, J. W. Holt, L. M. Carter

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Elysium Planitia includes several outflow channels that were likely carved by aqueous erosion and subsequently infilled by younger lava flows, making Elysium Planitia the youngest volcanic terrain on Mars. Studying this region is critical for constraining the recent hydrological and thermal evolution of the planet. Here, we investigate the lava flow areas, thicknesses, and volumes in Elysium Planitia using Context (CTX) camera images in combination with SHAllow RADar (SHARAD) sounder data. Compiling 1,777 reflectors over an area of 9,126,790 km2 allows us to reconstruct the subsurface landscape evolution over time. Our findings show that Elysium Planitia is composed of material from about 40 episodes of effusive volcanic activity. We report volumes for individual eruptions of 4,000 ± 1,600 km3 infilling Athabasca Valles, 12,200 ± 2,500 km3 in Marte Vallis, and 16,000 ± 4,000 km3 in Rahway Valles for the major flow units and volumes as small as 100 ± 50 km3 in Cerberus Plains. The surface morphologies and inferred dielectric properties of lobe interfaces suggests that the regions consists of basaltic lava. The region also experienced multiple aqueous flooding events. Although, we found evidence of past lava–water interactions, present-day ground-ice (if present) is likely limited to local patches. Further, the pre-eruption landscape reveals that the aqueously carved Marte Vallis is more areal extensive, but shallower than previously suggested, with a likely paleo-flow direction from northwest to southeast. The channel is most likely sourced from a segment in the northwestern portion of Cerberus Fossae, and is now buried by multiple Late Amazonian lavas with the same lava flow direction.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere2023JE007947
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Planets
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2023


  • Elysium Planitia
  • lava
  • mapping
  • Mars
  • subsurface radar
  • volcanism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geophysics
  • Geochemistry and Petrology
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Space and Planetary Science


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