University of Oulu

Small impact craters in crater counting : evolution studies of the eastern Hellas outflow channels, Mars

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Author: Kukkonen, Soile1
Organizations: 1University of Oulu, Faculty of Science, Astronomy
Format: ebook
Version: published version
Access: open
Online Access: PDF Full Text (PDF, 75.5 MB)
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Language: English
Published: Oulu : University of Oulu, 2018
Publish Date: 2018-04-13
Thesis type: Doctoral Dissertation
Defence Note: Academic Dissertation to be presented with the assent of the Faculty of Science, University of Oulu, for public discussion in the Auditorium L10, on April 20th, 2018, at 12 o’clock noon.
Reviewer: Professor Gian Gabriele Ori
Doctor Gregory Michael
Opponent: Professor Stephanie Werner
Kustos: Docent Eija Laurikainen


Crater counting is a method which allows us to estimate the surface ages of the planetary bodies, from which the sampling and sample delivery to laboratories on Earth are difficult or impossible. Because the number of craters on a surface unit increases over the time the surface has been exposed to space, old, geologically stable units have more craters than young and active units. When the crater production rate as a function of time is known, the absolute age of the surface unit can be determined based on its crater density.

The purpose of this thesis is to investigate the role of small impact craters in crater counts to find out how modern very high-resolution space images can be utilized in age determination of planetary surfaces. The thesis focuses on how reliable crater count based datings are, if only small craters and counting areas are used in age determination.

The research is carried out by utilizing crater counts on the outflow channels of Dao, Niger, Harmakhis and Reull Valles, which all are located in the eastern rim region of the Hellas impact basin, on the southern hemisphere of Mars. Crater counts are performed mainly based on the images of ConTeXt Imager (CTX) and High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) aboard Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO).

The results show that small craters are a very valuable tool to get information about the surface age. Instead of the size-range of counted craters, or the size of counting areas, results are dependent on the variability and scale of the surface modification history. The more variable or larger scale the modification history is, the larger surface area and wider crater diameter range are typically needed to achieve comprehensive age estimations.

The crater counts on the eastern Hellas outflow channels support the earlier theories according to which the valles formed during a relatively short time interval, ~ 3.4–3.7 Ga ago. The existence of terrace structures and smaller tributary channels indicate that the outflow channels were filled by several pulses of liquids. The major fluvial activity ended no later than ~ 0.8–1.9 Ga ago, and it was probably controlled by the activity of nearby highland volcanoes.

Soon after the declined fluvial activity, the outflow channels were covered by ice-rich deposits. The major reason for this was probably the changed climatic conditions, although in places e.g. impact cratering seems to have contributed to the emplacement of the deposits. The region as a whole was also resurfaced several times because of changes in local climate conditions. The most significant of the resurfacing processes seem to be the episodes of thin ice-rich mantling deposits, the most recent of which dominated the regional modification less than 10 Ma ago. In addition, the region has experienced eolian activity during the last 1 Ma.

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Osajulkaisut / Original papers

Osajulkaisut eivät sisälly väitöskirjan elektroniseen versioon / Original papers are not included in the electronic version of the dissertation.

  1. Kostama, V.-P., Kukkonen, S., & Raitala, J. (2017). Resurfacing event observed in Morpheos basin (Eridania Planitia) and the implications to the formation and timing of Waikato and Reull Valles, Mars. Planetary and Space Science, 140, 35–48.

  2. Kukkonen, S., & Kostama, V.-P. (2018). Modification history of the Harmakhis Vallis outflow channel, Mars, based on CTX-scale photogeologic mapping and crater count dating. Icarus, 299, 46–67.

  3. Kukkonen, S., & Kostama, V.-P. (2018). Usability of small impact craters on small surface areas in crater count dating: Analysing examples from the Harmakhis Vallis outflow channel, Mars. Icarus, 305, 33–49.

  4. Kukkonen, S., & Kostama, V.-P. (2018). Mapping and dating based evolution studies of the Niger Vallis outflow channel, Mars. Planetary and Space Science, 153, 54–71.

  5. Korteniemi, J., & Kukkonen, S. (2018). Volcanic Structures Within Niger and Dao Valles, Mars, and Implications for Outflow Channel Evolution and Hellas Basin Rim Development. Geophysical Research Letters, 45(7), 2934–2944.

    Rinnakkaistallennettu versio / Self-archived version

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Series: Report series in physical sciences
ISSN: 1239-4327
ISSN-L: 1239-4327
ISBN: 978-952-62-1877-9
ISBN Print: 978-952-62-1876-2
Issue: 118
Copyright information: © University of Oulu, 2018. This publication is copyrighted. You may download, display and print it for your own personal use. Commercial use is prohibited.