Clastic patterned ground in Lomonosov crater, Mars: examining fracture controlled formation mechanisms

Barrett, Alexander M.; Balme, Matthew R.; Patel, Manish R. and Hagermann, Axel (2017). Clastic patterned ground in Lomonosov crater, Mars: examining fracture controlled formation mechanisms. Icarus, 295 pp. 125–139.



The area surrounding Lomonosov crater on Mars has a high density of seemingly organised boulder patterns. These form seemingly sorted polygons and stripes within kilometre scale blockfields, patches of boulder strewn ground which are common across the Martian high latitudes. Several hypotheses have been suggested to explain the formation of clastic patterned ground on Mars. It has been proposed that these structures could have formed through freeze-thaw sorting, or conversely by the interaction of boulders with underlying fracture polygons.

In this investigation a series of sites were examined to evaluate whether boulder patterns appear to be controlled by the distribution of underlying fractures and test the fracture control hypotheses for their formation. It was decided to focus on this suite of mechanisms as they are characterised by a clear morphological relationship, namely the presence of an underlying fracture network which can easily be evaluated over a large area.

It was found that in the majority of examples at these sites did not exhibit fracture control. Although fractures were present at many sites there were very few sites where the fracture network appeared to be controlling the boulder distribution. In general these were not the sites with the best examples of organization, suggesting that the fracture control mechanisms are not the dominant geomorphic process organising the boulders in this area.

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