Hellas basin on Mars has been the site of volcanism, tectonism, and modification by fluvial, mass-wasting, and eolian processes over its more than 4-b.y. existence. Our detailed geologic mapping and related studies have resulted in the following new interpretations. The asymmetric distribution of highland massifs and other structures that define the uplifted basin rim suggest a formation of the basin by the impact of a low-angle bolide having a trajectory heading S60E. During the Late Noachian, the basin was infilled, perhaps by lava flows, that were sufficiently thick (greater than 1 km) to produce wrinkle ridges on the fill material and extensional faulting along the west rim of the basin. At about the same time, deposits buried northern Malea Planum, which are interpreted to be pyroclastic flows from Amphitrites and Peneus Paterae on the basis of their degraded morphology, topology, and the application of a previous model for pyroclastic volcanism on Mars. Peneus forms a distinctive caldera structure that indicates eruption of massive volumes of magma, whereas Amphitrites is a less distinct circular feature surrounded by a broad, low, dissected shield that suggests generally smaller volume eruptions. During the Early Hesperian, an approximately 1-to 2km-thick sequence of primarily fined-grained, eolian material was deposited on the floor of Hellas basin. Subsequently, the deposit was deeply eroded, except where armored by crater ejecta, and it retreated as much as 200-300 km along its western margin, leaving behind pedestal craters and knobby outliers of the deposit. Local debris flows within the deposit attest to concentrations of groundwater, perhaps in part brought in by outflow floods along the east rim of the basin. These floods may have deposited approximately 100-200m of sediment, subduing wrinkle ridges in the eastern part of the basin floor. During the Late Hesperian and Amazonian, eolian mantles were emplaced on the basin rim and floor and surrounding highlands. Their subsequent erosion resulted in pitted and etched plains and crater fill, irregular mesas, and pedestal craters. Local evidence occurs for the possible former presence of ground ice or ice sheets approximately 100 km across; however, we disagree with a hypothesis that suggest that the entire south rim and much of the floor of Hellas have been glaciated. Orientations of dune fields and yardangs in lower parts of Hellas basin follow directions of the strongest winds predicted by a recently published general circulation model (GCM). Transient frost and dust splotches in the region are, by contrast, related to the GCM prediction for the season in which the images they appear in were taken.
LUNAR AND PLANETARY EXPLORATION
Journal of Geophysical Research (ISSN 0148-0227); p. 5407-5432