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Origin of giant Martian polygonsExtensive areas of the Martian northern plains in Utopia and Acidalia planitiae are characterized by 'polygonal terrane'. Polygonal terrane consists of material cut by complex troughs defining a pattern resembling mudcracks, columnar joints, or frost-wedge polygons on earth. However, the Martian polygons are orders of magnitude larger than these potential earth analogues, leading to severe mechanical difficulties for genetic models based on simple analogy arguments. Plate-bending and finite element models indicate that shrinkage of desiccating sediment or cooling volcanics accompanied by differential compaction over buried topography can account for the stresses responsible for polygon troughs as well as the large size of the polygons. Although trough widths and depths relate primarily to shrinkage, the large scale of the polygonl pattern relates to the spacing between topographic elevations on the surface buried beneath polygonal terrane material. Geological relationships favor a sedimentary origin for polygonal terrane material, but our model is not dependent on the specific genesis. Our analysis also suggests that the polygons must have formed at a geologically rapid rate.
Document ID
19920044143
Document Type
Reprint (Version printed in journal)
Authors
Mcgill, George E. (NASA Headquarters Washington, DC United States)
Hills, L. S. (Massachusetts, University Amherst, United States)
Date Acquired
August 15, 2013
Publication Date
February 25, 1992
Publication Information
Publication: Journal of Geophysical Research
Volume: 97
Issue: E2 F
ISSN: 0148-0227
Subject Category
LUNAR AND PLANETARY EXPLORATION
Funding Number(s)
CONTRACT_GRANT: NAGW-1097
CONTRACT_GRANT: NAGW-2223
Distribution Limits
Public
Copyright
Other