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A model for the origin of Martian polygonal terrainExtensive areas of the Martian northern plains in Utopia and Acidalia Planitiae are characterized by 'polygonal terrain.' Polygonal terrain consists of material cut by complex troughs defining a pattern resembling mudcracks, columnar joints, or frost-wedge polygons on the Earth. However, the Martian polygons are orders of magnitude larger than these potential Earth analogs, leading to severe mechanical difficulties for genetic models based on simple analogy arguments. Stratigraphic studies show that the polygonally fractured material in Utopia Planitia was deposited on a land surface with significant topography, including scattered knobs and mesas, fragments of ancient crater rims, and fresh younger craters. Sediments or volcanics deposited over topographically irregular surfaces can experience differential compaction producing drape folds. Bending stresses due to these drape folds would be superposed on the pervasive tensile stresses due to desiccation or cooling, such that the probability of fracturing is enhanced above buried topographic highs and suppressed above buried topographic lows. Thus it was proposed that the scale of the Martian polygons is controlled by the spacing of topographic highs on the buried surface rather than by the physics of the shrinkage process.
Document ID
Document Type
Conference Paper
Mcgill, G. E. (Massachusetts Univ. Amherst, MA, United States)
Date Acquired
September 6, 2013
Publication Date
January 1, 1993
Publication Information
Publication: Lunar and Planetary Inst., Workshop on the Martian Northern Plains: Sedimentological, Periglacial, and Paleoclimatic Evolution
Subject Category
Distribution Limits
Work of the US Gov. Public Use Permitted.

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IDRelationTitle19940014992Analytic PrimaryComputational Methods for Crashworthiness19940015909Analytic PrimaryWorkshop on the Martian Northern Plains: Sedimentological, Periglacial, and Paleoclimatic Evolution