Studies of lava flows in the Tharsis region of Mars using SHARAD

Molly N. Simon, Lynn M. Carter, Bruce A. Campbell, Roger J. Phillips, Stefania Mattei

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


The Tharsis region of Mars is covered in volcanic flows that can stretch for tens to hundreds of kilometers. Radar measurements of the dielectric properties of these flows can provide information regarding their composition and density. SHARAD (shallow radar), a sounding radar on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, detects basal interfaces beneath flows in some areas of Tharsis northwest and west of Ascraeus Mons, with additional detections south of Pavonis Mons. Comparisons with 12.6 cm ground-based radar images suggest that SHARAD detects basal interfaces primarily in dust or regolith-mantled regions. We use SHARAD data to estimate the real relative permittivity of the flows by comparing the measured time delay of returns from the subsurface with altimetry measurements of the flow heights relative to the surrounding plains. In cases where the subsurface interface is visible at different depths, spanning tens of meters, it is also possible to measure the loss tangent (tan δ) of the material. The permittivity values calculated range from 7.6 to 11.6, with an average of 9.6, while the mean loss tangent values range from 7.8 × 10-3 to 2.9 × 10-2 with an average of 1.0 × 10-2. These permittivity and loss tangent estimates for the flows northwest of Ascraeus Mons, west of Ascraeus Mons, and south of Pavonis Mons are consistent with the lab-measured values for dense, low-titanium basalt.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2291-2299
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Planets
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Dielectric properties
  • Mars
  • Radar observations
  • Volcanism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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