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Hydrothermal conditions in Martian impact craters

Presentation #212.03 in the session Martian Geomorphology, Ice Layers, Crust, and Habitability (Poster + Lightning Talk)

Published onOct 23, 2023
Hydrothermal conditions in Martian impact craters

Mars was/is potentially habitable since early in its history, and impact craters serve as a compelling route to investigate these ancient conditions. Impact craters exhibit potential sources of energy, resources, and liquid water. Indeed, impact craters can serve as remarkable windows into the past, potentially unveiling evidence of the Martian subsurface physical and chemical conditions. In our research, we delve into the possible habitability of the Martian crust by examining indications of hydrothermal systems in and around impact craters. Although the Martian surface displays extensive signs suggestive of hydrothermal processes, it is still an open question whether hydrothermal signatures around impact craters are a result of the impact or remnants unearthed by it. Our study has two main objectives: 1) identify the minimum diameter of an impact crater that allows sufficient excavation depth to reach potential cryospheric depths (in the order of kilometers), and 2) discern where within a crater various forms of impact-induced hydrothermal mineralization are most likely to be discovered.

In this investigation, we employ the iSALE shock physics code to replicate complex Martian impact craters, along with their associated thermal anomalies and crustal characteristics, including fracturing, excavation, and stratigraphic changes. In our study, we begin by simulating Toro crater, a Martian feature displaying signs of hydrothermal activity. The outcomes from this simulation serve to calibrate our model parameters, aligning them with real-world observations. Following this validation, we extended our simulation to encompass the entire range of complex craters on Mars, exploring how our results vary with crater size. Through our study, we’ve attempted to forecast the most probable pathways for hydrothermal by-products to reach the surface, by cross-referencing regions of high strain (where faulting and fracturing may occur) with the regions heated by crater formation. The outcomes of this study are twofold: they provide insights on where signs of hydrothermal activity should be anticipated and establish the minimum diameter for an impact crater to potentially generate hydrothermal by-products based on current estimates for the depth of the Martian cryosphere. Our findings contribute to a more nuanced understanding of the potential habitability of Mars and guiding future exploration efforts.

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