Search for Causes of the Low Epithermal Neutron Flux Anomaly in the Arabia Terra Region (Mars)

A. T. Basilevsky a, A. V. Rodin b, J. Raitala c, G. Neukum d, S. Werner d, A. S. Kozyrev b, A. B. Sanin b, I. G. Mitrofanov b, J. W. Head e, W. Boynton f, and R. S. Saunders j

aVernadsky Institute of Geochemistry and Analytical Chemistry, Russian Academy of Sciences, ul. Kosygina 19, Moscow, 119991 Russia
b Space Research Institute, Russian Academy of Sciences, ul. Profsoyuznaya 84/32, Moscow, 117997 Russia
c Astronomy Department, University of Oulu, Finland
dInstitute of Geosciences, Free University, Malteserstr. 74-100, D-12045 Berlin, Germany
e Department of Geological Sciences, Brown University, Providence, RI 02912, USA
fLunar and Planetary Laboratory, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ 85721, USA

j Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, CA 91109, USA

Abstract - A geologic analysis of 274 images acquired by the high-resolution MOC camera onboard the Mars Global Surveyor spacecraft within the Arabia Terra low neutron flux anomaly (which is indicative of an anomalously high abundance of hydrogen: up to 16 wt % of the equivalent amount of water) was performed. Correlation between the enhanced abundance of equivalent water with the presence of dust on the surface was found. Since dust plays a key role in condensation of water from the atmosphere, we suppose that the anomalies could result from the retention of atmospheric moisture. To analyze this suggestion, we performed a theoretical modeling that allowed us to map the planetary-scale distributions of several meteorological parameters responsible for the atmospheric moisture condensation. Two antipodal regions coinciding rather well with the Arabia Terra anomaly and the geographically antipodal anomaly southwest of Olympus Mons were found in the maps. This suggests that the anomalies are rather recent than ancient formations. They were probably formed by a sink of moisture from the atmosphere in the areas where present meteorological conditions support this sink. Geological parameters, primarily the presence of dust, only promote this process. We cannot exclude the possibility that the Martian cryosphere, rather than the atmosphere, supplied the studied anomalies with moisture during their formation: the thermodynamic conditions in the anomaly areas could block the moisture flux from the Martian interior in the upper regolith layer. The moisture coming from the atmosphere or from the interior is likely held as chemically bound water entering into the structure of water-bearing minerals (probably, hydrated magnesium sulfates) directly from the vapor; or the moisture precipitates as frost, penetrates into microfissures, and then is bound in minerals. Probably, another geologic factor—the magnesium sulfate abundance—works in the Arabia Terra anomaly.
DOI: 10.1134/S0038094606050017 -