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European Space Agency

European Mars Science and Exploration Conference: Mars Express & ExoMars
ESTEC, Noordwijk, The Netherlands, 12 - 16 November, 2007

CHARACTERIZATION OF RADAR-TRANSPARENT DEPOSITS IN THE SOUTHERN AND


EASTERN ELYSIUM REGION OF MARS A. Safaeinili1, R. Orosei2. R. Phillips3 J. Plaut1, K. Doubleday1,
Y. Gim1, B. Campbell4, R. Seu5,1Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, 91109, USA. 2Istituto di Astrofisica
Spaziale e Fisica Cosmica, Istituto Nazionale di Astrofisica, Rome 00133, Italy, 3Department of Earth and
Planetary Sciences, Washington University,St. Louis, MO 63130, USA,4 Center for Earth and Planetary Studies
Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC 20013-7012, USA, 5Dipartimento INFOCOM, University of Rome
``La Sapienza'', Rome 00184, Italy. Ali.safaeinili@jpl.nasa.gov,

Introduction: We present results on the Elysium


Planitia near the equator that show evidence of
shallow radio-transparent deposits. This is the
largest radar transparent area away from the Mars
polar layered deposits observed by either MARSIS
(Mars Advanced Radar for Subsurface and
Ionospheric Sounding) and SHARAD (SHAllow
RADar). The first indications of radar transparency
in this region was provided by MARSIS. However,
most of this region remained unexplored partly
because of a lack of depth resolution of MARSIS
that is ~80 meters in the subsurface. SHARAD is
able to resolve these deposits better due to its higher
bandwidth providing approximately 10 times better
depth resolution. The MARSIS radar sounder
operates over 4 bands between 1.3 MHz and 5.5
MHz and has a maximum bandwidth of 1 MHz.
SHARAD operates between 15 MHz and 25 MHz
with a maximum bandwidth of 10 MHz. Although
SHARAD has higher resolution, its performance
can be degraded due to surface roughness causing a
loss of coherence in radar echo which in turn can Figure 1. Three parallel SHARAD tracks over the
make the detection more difficult. Elysium planitia showing a single subsurface interface at
a depth of 60 m.
continuous interface with clear indication of a
Radar Observations: We measure the depth of the
second deeper interface in the beginning of the
deposit to be up to 200-meters thick assuming a
track. We interpret these as boundaries between
dielectric constant of 4. The origin of this terrain
different flow episodes. It is possible that other
has been attributed to volcanic flows [1,5], but also
boundaries exist but it is not observed by the radar.
aqueous or sedimentary processes [2]. If there are
Summary: Both MARSIS and SHARAD provide
remnant water ice deposits in this region, they must
evidence of an extensive shallow (< 300 meters)
be covered by a protective layer of material to
radio-transparent deposit covering the northern
prevent sublimation. The question is whether the
plains of Mars including the Elysium [3] and
radar data can provide clues about the nature of
Amazonis [4]. These deposits are up to 200-meters
these deposits. The radar data indicate transparent
thick in the Elysium region. Similar depth and radar
deposits that can be consistent with both an aqueous
signature between the Elysium and Amazonis
and volcanic origin. However, these radar data can
regions point to common mechanism.
also measure the extent of these regions, which can
Acknowledgments: SHARAD was provided by the
provide additional information about the nature of
Italian Space Agency (ASI) for use on NASA’s
these deposits. The fact that we observe a similar
Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. MARSIS is a joint
thickness and distribution of deposit in the Elysium
project of ASI and NASA. Some of the work
[3] as well as the Amazonis [4], suggests the
described herein was performed at the Jet
possibility of a common mechanism responsible for
Propulsion Laboratory under contract with NASA.
these deposits. We have collected data over many
parallel tracks enabling us to develop a map of the References: [1] Hartmann, W. K. and D. C. Berman, J.
subsurface of this region. Geophys Res., 105, 15,011, 2000. [2] Murray et al Nature,
Figure 1 shows radargrams from three parallel Vol. 34, pp 352-355, 2005. [3] Safaeinili et al., Seventh
SHARAD tracks. The radargram shows a international Mars Conference, 2007. [4] Campbell et al.,
Seventh international Mars Conference, 2007. [5] Plescia,
J.B., Icarus 164 (2003) 79–95.

Seventh International Conference on Mars 3206.pdf