Origin of collapsed pits and branched valleys surrounding the Ius chasma on Mars
Keywords: Valles Marineris, MEX, HRSC
Abstract. Chasma is a deep, elongated and steep sided depression on planetary surfaces. Several hypothesis have been proposed regarding the origin of chasma. In this study, we analysed morphological features in north and south of Ius chasma. Collapsed pits and branched valleys alongwith craters are prominent morphological features surrounding Ius Chasma, which forms the western part of the well known Valles Marineris chasma system on Martian surface. Analysis of images from the High Resolution Stereo Camera (HRSC) in ESA’s Mars Express (MEX) with a spatial resolution of 10 m shows linear arrangement of pits north of the Ius chasma. These pits were initially developed along existing narrow linear valleys parallel to Valles Merineris and are conical in shape unlike flat floored impact craters found adjacent to them. The width of conical pits ranges 1–10 km and depth ranges 1–2 km. With more subsidence, size of individual pits increased gradually and finally coalesced together to create a large depression forming a prominent linear valley. Arrangement of pits in this particular fashion can be attributed to collapse of the surface due to l arge hollows created in the subsurface because of the withdrawal of either magma or dry ice. Branched valleys which are prominent morphologic features south of the Ius chasma could have been formed due to groundwater sapping mechanism as proposed by previous researchers. Episodic release of groundwater in large quantity to the surface could have resulted in surface runoff creating V-shaped valleys, which were later modified into U-shaped valleys due to mass wasting and lack of continued surface runoff.