ESA has released some photos taken by its Mars Express space probe showing an area of the Thaumasia mountains and Coracis Fossae on Mars. This area is south of the gigantic canyon system called Valles Marineris and of Tharsis volcanoes and shows traces of the activity that led to their formation more than 3.5 billion years ago. The result is a variety of features with mountains and graben.
The Thaumasia mountains and Coracis Fossae are mapped as part of the Thaumasia quadrangle. These are areas that have been studied for years because they still show traces of different types of geological activities that took place especially when the planet Mars was young. According to the authors of an article published in the “Journal of Geophysical Research-Planets”, ancient volcanic events in a larger region called Greater Thaumasia may have affected Mars’ climate.
ESA’s study focuses on a smaller area, photographed on April 9, 2017 by the Mars Express space probe’s High Resolution Stereo Camera (HRSC) instrument. The rugged mountains of Thaumasia and the graben of Coracis Fossae, however, show a variable landscape with the graben oriented from north to south that pass through vast areas of the ancient mountain range. These are faults visible as linear structures in the left half of the image that formed over 3.5 billion years ago due to the tectonic stresses originated in the province of Tharsis and in the Valles Marineris.
Volcanic activity was crucial and needs to be studied to understand the evolution of climate on the planet Mars but it also had consequences for the liquid water flows that existed at that time on the red planet’s surface. Those faults can control the movements of magma, water and heat in the ground because they influence the direction of their flows and their subsequent activities. Graben were initially deformed by river erosion and subsequently partially filled with sediments.
In the area on the right of the image, also on the big crater’s rim, deposits were found that could contain clay materials. They require the presence of liquid water to form so if their nature gets confirmed it would be one of the effects of those ancient flows.
Within the crater you can also see circular structures formed by glacial processes that occurred more recently than the period when water was liquid. The lowering of temperatures on Mars led to a number of glaciations with ice movements in the areas where they had accumulated.
Indeed, many different processes led to the existing variety in the Thaumasia mountains and Coracis Fossae. It’s for this reason that both that area and the larger one of the Greater Thaumasia shows important traces of Mars’ history and have become the subject of various geological and climatological studies.