Mars Global Surveyor
Mars Orbiter Camera

Mars Shoreline Tests: Contact between Lycus Sulci and Amazonis Planitia

MGS MOC Release No. MOC2-180, 1 October 1999


MOC2-180a: Lycus Sulci/Amazonis Planitia Context

"Lycus Sulci" is the name of a region of hills and ridges located north and northwest of the famous giant volcano, Olympus Mons (see inset, above). Viking images of the area where the western margin of the Lycus Sulci meets the smoother Amazonis plains (upper left in the figure above) led some researchers to conclude that the two surfaces were in contact along a cliff. The proposed cliff faces toward the smooth plains, and thus it was suggested that this might be the kind of cliff that forms from erosion by waves in a body of water as they break against a coastline.

During the first year that Mars Global Surveyor (MGS) was orbiting the red planet (1997-1998), the Mars Orbiter Camera (MOC) acquired three high-resolution images along the contact between the Lycus Sulci hills and the Amazonis plains. The location of the portion of each image that is illustrated below is shown in this figure by a small, white box identified by the archival image number (e.g., "SPO2-428/03" refers to the 3rd image taken on the 428th orbit during the Science Phasing Orbits 2 phase of the MGS mission). The regional context view shown here is a portion of Viking orbiter image 851A29; its center is near 32°N, 114°W and it is illuminated from the right. For a higher-resolution view (755 Kbyte), CLICK HERE.

MOC2-180b: MOC Image SPO1-225/03 Shoreline Test

This picture is the first MOC high resolution image that showed the contact between the Lycus Sulci uplands and Amazonis Planitia lowlands. In this subframe of MOC image SPO1-225/03, Amazonis and Lycus Sulci are separated by a subtle rise that runs diagnonally across the scene from near the lower left toward the upper right. The Amazonis plains are toward the top of the picture, the Lycus Sulci uplands are toward the bottom. Both surfaces have been cratered by small meteoroid impacts. The Amazonis plains surface has many small, nearly parallel ridges that may have formed by wind erosion. These ridges are not found on the Lycus Sulci surface. None of the features seen in this image look like typical seashore landforms found on Earth--i.e., there are no beaches, windblown coastal dunes, or even the wave-cut cliff that was thought to exist on the basis of previous Viking images. The picture is illuminated from the lower right and was acquired in April 1998. For a higher-resolution view (625 Kbyte), CLICK HERE.

MOC2-180c: MOC Image SPO2-428/03 Shoreline Test

As in the previous picture, Lycus Sulci and Amazonis Planitia are shown here separated by a rise that runs diagonally across the scene from near the lower left toward the upper right. This picture is a subframe of MOC image SPO2-428/03, taken in July 1998. The Lycus Sulci uplands here are more roughly-textured than in the previous image, and the flat Amazonis plains appear to be more smooth and lack the small parallel ridges seen in the earlier view. The lack of the small ridges might be real, or they might be present but cannot be seen because this picture has a lower resolution than the previous one. This image, too, shows that the contact between Amazonis and Lycus Sulci is not a cliff, and once again there are no features that can be unambiguously identified as coastal landforms. The picture is illuminated from the right. For a higher-resolution view (1.1 Mbyte), CLICK HERE.

MOC2-180d: MOC Image SPO2-483/08 Shoreline Test

This is the third MOC image obtained during the first year of MGS operations that shows the contact between Lycus Sulci and Amazonis Planitia. This picture, a subframe of SPO2-483/08, was taken in August 1998. The Lycus Sulci uplands at this location dominate the lower half of the picture, while the Amazonis plains cover the upper half. The uplands here exhibit many small buttes (bumps or knobs in lower right of the scene), and the contact zone between the upland and lowland includes a triangular-shaped ridge (center/right). As with the earlier views of the contact between Lycus Sulci and Amazonis, no features of obvious origin by coastal processes (e.g., erosion by waves crashing against a shore) are seen. The image obtained by clicking on the icon is the highest resolution view. The scene is illuminated from the right.

For additional MOC image tests of proposed martian shorelines, see the following:

Malin Space Science Systems and the California Institute of Technology built the MOC using spare hardware from the Mars Observer mission. MSSS operates the camera from its facilities in San Diego, CA. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory's Mars Surveyor Operations Project operates the Mars Global Surveyor spacecraft with its industrial partner, Lockheed Martin Astronautics, from facilities in Pasadena, CA and Denver, CO.

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