Malea Planum is a volcanic plain on the southern rim of Hellas Planitia, the largest impact basin on Mars. Four large circular structures on Malea Planum have traditionally been identified as paterae, or low relief, central vent volcanoes (Plescia and Saunders, 1979). A geologic map was constructed and new crater counts made to explore the ages and origins of the paterae. Amphitrites and Peneus Paterae have radial patterns of wrinkle ridges on their flanks and distinct summit calderas (95 km and 130 km across) with arcuate bounding scarps. In contrast, Malea and Pityusa Paterae are broad depressions with diameters greater than 400 km. In some ways Pityusa and Malea Paterae resemble old, filled impact craters (Plescia, 2003) but they also have characteristics of volcanic subsidence features (Roche et al., 2000). A very strong positive gravity anomaly is centered over Amphitrites and smaller positive anomalies are associated with Peneus and Malea Paterae. A slight annular positive anomaly is associated with Pityusa. The geology of the Malea Planum Region has been influenced by impact cratering, volcanic, tectonic, fluvial, and most recently, eolian processes. The Noachian was dominated by impact cratering, the formation of Hellas Basin, and the eruption of flood lavas. Malea Planum formed during the mid- to late-Noachian, likely the result of sills liquefying the volatile-rich crust. Malea and Pityusa Paterae formed during the late Noachian. The Hesperian was marked by the formation of Peneus and Amphitrites and complex valley networks. During the mid-Hesperian, southern Malea Planum may have been covered by a very thick polar mantle deposit that melted and sublimated during the late Hesperian. Smaller episodes of polar mantle deposition continued through the Amazonian to the present. The Amazonian is also characterized by eolian activity creating dune fields, etched surfaces, and dust devil tracks. Based on the topographic and geophysical evidence, Amphitrites and Peneus are typical highland paterae. We conclude that a mid-crustal sill complex similar to that thought to exist beneath the eastern Snake River Plain in Idaho may be the best explanation for the formation of Malea and Pityusa Paterae. A lack of associated flow features on the surface suggests that the loads are the result of an accumulation of dense intrusions. A surficial load (e.g., lava flows) is insufficient to cause the amount of subsidence observed. A mid-crustal mafic or ultra-mafic sill or a dense network of sills and dikes may have contributed to the subsidence.



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Physical and Mathematical Sciences; Geological Sciences



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Malea Planum, Amphitrites, Peneus, Pityusa, Malea, Hellas Planitia, Mars, patera, caldera, volcano, mantle, polar, corona, crater counts, gravity, Viking, THEMIS, Mars Global Surveyor, Mars Orbiter Camera, MOLA

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