The Circum-Hellas Volcanic Province, Mars: Overview

David Williams, Ronald Greeley, Robin L. Fergason, Ruslan Kuzmin, Thomas B. McCord, Jean Phillipe Combe, James W. Head, Long Xiao, Leon Manfredi, François Poulet, Patrick Pinet, David Baratoux, Jeffrey J. Plaut, Jouko Raitala, Gerhard Neukum

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79 Scopus citations


Building on previous studies of volcanoes around the Hellas basin with new studies of imaging (High-Resolution Stereo Camera (HRSC), Thermal Emission Imaging System (THEMIS), Mars Orbiter Camera (MOC), High-Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE), Context Imager (CTX)), multispectral (HRSC, Observatoire pour la Minéralogie, l'Eau, les Glaces et l'Activité (OMEGA)), topographic (Mars Orbiter Laser Altimeter (MOLA)) and gravity data, we define a new Martian volcanic province as the Circum-Hellas Volcanic Province (CHVP). With an area of >2.1 million km2, it contains the six oldest central vent volcanoes on Mars, which formed after the Hellas impact basin, between 4.0 and 3.6 Ga. These volcanoes mark a transition from the flood volcanism that formed Malea Planum ∼3.8 Ga, to localized edifice-building eruptions. The CHVP volcanoes have two general morphologies: (1) shield-like edifices (Tyrrhena, Hadriaca, and Amphitrites Paterae), and (2) caldera-like depressions surrounded by ridged plains (Peneus, Malea, and Pityusa Paterae). Positive gravity anomalies are found at Tyrrhena, Hadriaca, and Amphitrites, perhaps indicative of dense magma bodies below the surface. The lack of positive-relief edifices and weak gravity anomalies at Peneus, Malea, and Pityusa suggest a fundamental difference in their formation, styles of eruption, and/or compositions. The northernmost volcanoes, the ∼3.7-3.9 Ga Tyrrhena and Hadriaca Paterae, have low slopes, well-channeled flanks, and smooth caldera floors (at tens of meters/pixel scale), indicative of volcanoes formed from poorly consolidated pyroclastic deposits that have been modified by fluvial and aeolian erosion and deposition. The ∼3.6 Ga Amphitrites Patera also has a well-channeled flank, but it and the ∼3.8 Ga Peneus Patera are dominated by scalloped and pitted terrain, pedestal and ejecta flow craters, and a general 'softened' appearance. This morphology is indicative not only of surface materials subjected to periglacial processes involving water ice, but also of a surface composed of easily eroded materials such as ash and dust. The southernmost volcanoes, the ∼3.8 Ga Malea and Pityusa Paterae, have no channeled flanks, no scalloped and pitted terrain, and lack the 'softened' appearance of their surfaces, but they do contain pedestal and ejecta flow craters and large, smooth, bright plateaus in their central depressions. This morphology is indicative of a surface with not only a high water ice content, but also a more consolidated material that is less susceptible to degradation (relative to the other four volcanoes). We suggest that Malea and Pityusa (and possibly Peneus) Paterae are Martian equivalents to Earth's giant calderas (e.g., Yellowstone, Long Valley) that erupted large volumes of volcanic materials, and that Malea and Pityusa are probably composed of either lava flows or ignimbrites. HRSC and OMEGA spectral data indicate that dark gray to slightly red materials (often represented as blue or black pixels in HRSC color images), found in the patera floors and topographic lows throughout the CHVP, have a basaltic composition. A key issue is whether this dark material represents concentrations of underlying basaltic material eroded by various processes and exposed by aeolian winnowing, or if the material was transported from elsewhere on Mars by regional winds. Understanding the provenance of these dark materials may be the key to understanding the volcanic diversity of the Circum-Hellas Volcanic Province.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)895-916
Number of pages22
JournalPlanetary and Space Science
Issue number8-9
StatePublished - Jul 2009


  • Crater statistics
  • Mars express
  • Mars volcanism
  • Remote sensing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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