SHARAD radar sounding of the Vastitas Borealis Formation in Amazonis Planitia

Bruce Campbell, Lynn Carter, Roger Phillips, Jeffrey Plaut, Nathaniel Putzig, Ali Safaeinili, Roberto Seu, Daniela Biccari, Anthony Egan, Roberto Orosei

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

63 Scopus citations


Amazonis Planitia has undergone alternating episodes of sedimentary and volcanic infilling, forming an interleaved sequence with an upper surface that is very smooth at the kilometer scale. Earlier work interprets the near-surface materials as either young, rough lava flows or ice-rich sediment layers, overlying a basement comprising the Vastitas Borealis Formation and earlier Hesperian plains. Sounding radar profiles across Amazonis Planitia from the Shallow Radar (SHARAD) instrument on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter reveal a subsurface dielectric interface that increases in depth toward the north along most orbital tracks. The maximum depth of detection is 100-170 m, depending upon the real dielectric permittivity of the materials, but the interface may persist at greater depth to the north if the reflected energy is attenuated below the SHARAD noise floor. The dielectric horizon likely marks the boundary between sedimentary material of the Vastitas Borealis Formation and underlying Hesperian volcanic plains. The SHARAD-detected interface follows the surface topography across at least one of the large wrinkle ridges in north central Amazonis Planitia. This conformality suggests that Vastitas Borealis sediments, at least in this region, were emplaced prior to compressional tectonic deformation. The change in radar echo strength with time delay is consistent with a loss tangent of 0.005-0.012 for the column of material between the surface and the reflector. These values are consistent with dry, moderate-density sediments or the lower end of the range of values measured for basalts. While a component of distributed ice in a higher-loss matrix cannot be ruled out, we do not find evidence for a dielectric horizon within the Vastitas Borealis Formation that might suggest an abrupt change from an upper dry layer to an ice-rich lower deposit.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberE12010
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Planets
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 20 2008
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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