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Scour Pits in the Medusae Fossae Formation and Olympus Mons Region, Mars

Presentation #213.12 in the session Martian Aurora, Atmosphere, Winds, and Dust (Poster)

Published onOct 23, 2023
Scour Pits in the Medusae Fossae Formation and Olympus Mons Region, Mars

The Medusae Fossae Formation (MFF) is an enigmatic formation on Mars to the southwest of Olympus Mons. In various locations within this formation, there are thousands of negative relief pits that we refer to as “scour pits.” Scour pits are aeolian features usually between 100–600 m long and 400–1600 m wide. Due to their proximity to yardangs (another aeolian feature characteristic of the MFF) it has been theorized that scour pits are a stage of development related to yardangs. Scour pits frequently have smaller-scale features such as ripples and slope streaks on their peaks and sides. Most of the scour pits can be found within the current form of the MFF (Perez-Cortes, Bretzfelder, and Day, 2021, GSA abstract 369501). In this study, however, we have found some new clusters outside the main extent of the formation, in the areas surrounding Olympus Mons.

Using the Java Mission-planning and Analysis for Remote Sensing (JMARS) platform we have mapped the locations of the scour pits and created a density map to show their distribution and constrain the environment that could have led to their formation. Images from the Context Camera (CTX) and the High-Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) were used to identify these pits, measure their sizes, and determine their morphologies. We also analyzed elevation data from the Mars Orbiter Laser Altimeter (MOLA). Using the morphology of these features, we reconstructed paleowind directions of this region. We also compared their sizes, elevations, and morphologies to investigate their relationship to yardangs.

We found scour pits formed north and southwest of Olympus Mons, in various clusters around the middle and easternmost lobes of the MFF, in Nicolson Crater, and in two unnamed craters within the MFF. Since these scour pit features and erosion patterns appear to be unique to the MFF, we theorize that there is a small additional lobe of the formation that spreads up into the Olympus Mons region. The presence of these erosional features can help us to understand the extent of the boundaries of the MFF deposits, the composition of the MFF, the deposits in Olympus Mons, and more broadly the aeolian history in these locations of Mars.

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