Hypotheses for the origin of the Hypanis fan-shaped deposit at the edge of the Chryse escarpment, Mars: Is it a delta?

Jacob B. Adler, James F. Bell, Peter Fawdon, Joel Davis, Nicholas H. Warner, Elliot Sefton-Nash, Tanya N. Harrison

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


We investigated the origin of the fan-shaped deposit at the end of Hypanis Valles that has previously been proposed as an ExoMars, Mars 2020, and human mission candidate landing site, and found evidence that the landform is an ancient delta. Previous work suggests that the deposit originated from a time of fluvial activity both distinct from and prior to catastrophic outflow, and crater counting placed the deposit's age at ≥ 3.6 Ga. We found over 30 thin sedimentary strata in the proposed delta wall, and from our slope analysis conclude that the fluvial sequence is consistent with a lowering/retreating shoreline. We measured nearly horizontal bedding dip angles ranging from 0° to 2° over long stretches of cliff and bench exposures seen in HiRISE images and HiRISE stereo DTMs. From THEMIS night IR images we determined that the fan-shaped deposit has a low thermal inertia (150–240 Jm−2K−1s−1/2) and the surrounding darker-toned units correspond to thermal inertia values as high as 270–390 Jm−2K−1s−1/2. We interpret these findings to indicate that the fan-shaped deposit consists mostly of silt-sized and possibly finer grains, and that the extremely low grade and large lateral extent of these beds implies that the depositional environment was calm and relatively long-lived. Our assessment of the geomorphology and composition seems to indicate that the alluvial fan and mudflow hypotheses are less compatible. From our stratigraphic mapping we interpret the order of events which shaped the region. After the Chryse impact, sediment filled the basin, a confined lake or sea formed allowing a large delta to be deposited near its shoreline, the water level receded to the north, darker sedimentary/volcanic units covered the region and capped the light-toned deposit as hydro-volcanic eruptions shaped the interior of Lederberg crater, freeze/thaw cycles and desiccation induced local fracturing, and finally wrinkle ridges associated with rounded cones warped the landscape following trends in degraded crater rims and existing tectonic features. The ancient deltaic deposit we observe today was largely untouched by subsequent catastrophic outflows, and its surface has been only moderately reshaped by over 3 billion years of aeolian erosion.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)885-908
Number of pages24
StatePublished - Feb 2019


  • Geological processes
  • Mars
  • Mars surface

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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