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Mars: some basics
Radius = 3375 km (cf Earth’s 6378 km)
 Mass = 6.42 x 1023 kg ( ~0.1 Earth’s mass)
 Surface gravity = 3.8 m s-2 (~ 1/3rd Earth’s gravity)
 Orbital semi-major axis = 1.52 Astronomical units
 Eccentricity = 0.0934 (cf. 0.0167 for Earth)
 perihelion at 1.378 AU, aphelion at 1.662 AU
 insolation ranges from 52.5% to 36.2% average terrestrial values
 Current surface temperatures – –87 to 25o C (air temperatures)
- -70 to 10o C (soil temperatures
 Present-day atmospheric pressure – 6 millibars on average
 Atmospheric composition – predominantly CO2
 Axial tilt = 24.5o – but variable (cf. 23.5o for Earth)
 Rotation period = 24.6 hours
 Orbital period = 687 days
Mars: global views
Late Northern summer – from
Mars Global Surveyor,
Wide-angle camera
Tharsis & 4 large volcanoes 
The ages of Mars
The Noachian era: 4.5 to 3.5 billion years ago. Early intense impact
cratering; extensive volcanic activity, some plate tectonics; much
denser atmosphere, at least during earlier stages; considerable erosion
 extensive (sporadic?) surface water (lakes, maybe even oceans).
 The Hesperian era: 3.5 tp 2.0-2.5 billion years ago. Low impact rate;
continued volcanic activity, but at a lower level; minimal (no?) tectonics;
continued atmospheric depletion; water primarily underground in
massive, frozen deposits, but some continued river formation, possibly
as a result of local melting and `breakouts’.
 The Amazonian era: 2.0-2.5 billion years ago to present day. Low
impact rate; sporadic volcanic activity – primarily in Tharsis regions
(Olympus Mons, Ascraeus Mons, Pavonis Mons & Arsia Mons); water
almost exclusively frozen underground, but some percolation and
occasional surface breakouts.
Magnetic fields and tectonics
Planetary magnetic fields are due to an internal dynamo, generated by
a rotating, molten core  correlated with vulcanism & tectonics
Magnetic fields shield planetary atmospheres from high-energy ions in
the solar wind  moderate atmospheric erosion
Present-day Mars has no detectable dipole field.
Satellite measurements show that Noachian features (southern
uplands) are magnetised, but Hesperian features are not.
Noachian Mars had a strong field which had decayed significantly by
age ~3.9 billion years.
Molten core in early Mars maintained partly by short-lived radioactive
Some evidence for mild tectonic activity, primarily Thaumaric mountain
range near Tharsis and the five giant Mars volcanos
Martian volcanoes
Clouds over Tharsis
Olympus Mons
both from Mars Global Surveyor
Water on Mars - now
Crater morphology suggests massive frozen deposits underground  meteoric
impacts generate muddy slurry which forms `rampart’ craters.
Many rampart craters have `softened’ features, as if partially melted  best
explained by relaxation (flow) of underground ice deposits.
Minimum size of rampart craters decreases with increasing latitude 
underground ice lies closer to the surface (~200 metres depth) near the Poles.
Mars Odyssey searched for water in surface layers – detected no traces near
Martian equator, but 20-50% ice composition within the top few metres at
latitutudes > 60o.
Polar ice caps have (relatively) permanent core of water ice, supplemented by
larger seasonal deposits of CO2 frost.
Evidence for surface water flows (narrow gullies in canyon side) and possible
Martian glaciers (in Promethii Terra) within late10-20 Myrs. Possible flood (5
million cubic metre/sec ~ 125 x Mississippi river) in Valle Martis within last 20
Myrs. Note that ice sublimes if exposed directly on present-day Mars.
Recent water flow
Canyon gullies in Newton
Canyon gullies in Hellas
Polar Caps
Viking & MGS images of the permanent
South polar ice cap.
Water on Mars: then
Extensive morphological evidence for water erosion – dried river beds & ox-bow
lakes, canyons (eg Valles Marineris), hillside gullies
Possible evidence (shorelines) of a substantial North Polar ocean (Oceanus
Borealis) during Noachian times  perhaps sufficient water to cover the entire
planet’s surface to a depth of >100 metres. May have survived (episodically) into
Hesperian times.
Evidence for sedimetary features – e.g. crater Crommelin, imaged b Mars
Global Surveyor.
Mineral deposits in Martian meteorites – most contain salts, showing evidence of
exposure to brine, probably similar to terrestrial seawater. Most recent exposure
was probably only 670 Myrs ago.
Mineral deposits on the present-day Martian surface e.g. haematite
concentration in Terra Meridiani (Mars rover site) – cf. mineral deposits near hot
springs on Earth.
Late, episodic floods could be triggered by internal heating (residual magma),
climate changes induced by changes in axial tilt; episodes of violent volcanic
activity & consequent atmosphere enhancement.
Sustained water flow
Nanedi Vallis – MGS images
The Martian atmosphere
Current atmosphere has 0.7% pressure of Earth’s atmosphere, and is almost
pure carbon dioxide.
Scaling from measurements of Ar abundance in Martian meteorites, the
primordial Noachian atmosphere may have been 15 to 70 times more dense 
10-50% pressure of Earth’s atmosphere, including extensive water vapour
Primordial Martian atmosphere likely included significant greenhouse gases plus
extensive cloud formation  surface temperatures could have been significantly
warmer than today, although note that the Sun was 75% present-day luminosity.
Current studies centre on two options: cold, wet early Mars, average
temperature lower than present-day; warm, wet early Mars, with near-terrestrial
Primordial atmosphere survived until early Hesperian times (based on studies of
gases trapped in meteorite ALH84001); depleted relatively rapidly as the Martian
magnetic field decayed.
Possible local(?), short-lived atmospheric enhancements due to significant
volcanic episodes as late as Amazonian era (Tharsis volcanic eruptions).