ESA Science & Technology - Publication Archive
The scale of groundwater upwelling on Mars, as well as its relation to sedimentary systems, remains an ongoing debate. Several deep craters (basins) in the northern equatorial regions show compelling signs that large amounts of water once existed on Mars at a planet-wide scale. The presence of water-formed features, including fluvial Gilbert and sapping deltas fed by sapping valleys, constitute strong evidence of groundwater upwelling resulting in long term standing bodies of water inside the basins. Terrestrial field evidence shows that sapping valleys can occur in basalt bedrock and not only in unconsolidated sediments. A hypothesis that considers the elevation differences between the observed morphologies and the assumed basal groundwater level is presented and described as the "dike-confined water" model, already present on Earth and introduced for the first time in the Martian geological literature. Only the deepest basins considered in this study, those with bases deeper than −4000 m in elevation below the Mars datum, intercepted the water-saturated zone and exhibit evidence of groundwater fluctuations. The discovery of these groundwater discharge sites on a planet-wide scale strongly suggests a link between the putative Martian ocean and various configurations of sedimentary deposits that were formed as a result of groundwater fluctuations during the Hesperian period. This newly recognized evidence of water-formed features significantly increases the chance that biosignatures could be buried in the sediment. These deep basins (groundwater-fed lakes) will be of interest to future exploration missions as they might provide evidence of geological conditions suitable for life.
The Martian bow shock distance has previously been shown to be anticorrelated with solar wind dynamic pressure but correlated with solar extreme ultraviolet (EUV) irradiance. Since both of these solar parameters reduce with the square of the distance from the Sun, and Mars' orbit about the Sun increases by ~0.3 AU from perihelion to aphelion, it is not clear how the bow shock location will respond to variations in these solar parameters, if at all, throughout its orbit. In order to characterize such a response, we use more than 5 Martian years of Mars Express Analyser of Space Plasma and EneRgetic Atoms (ASPERA-3) Electron Spectrometer measurements to automatically identify 11,861 bow shock crossings. We have discovered that the bow shock distance as a function of solar longitude has a minimum of 2.39RM around aphelion and proceeds to a maximum of 2.65RM around perihelion, presenting an overall variation of ~11% throughout the Martian orbit. We have verified previous findings that the bow shock in southern hemisphere is on average located farther away from Mars than in the northern hemisphere. However, this hemispherical asymmetry is small (total distance variation of ~2.4%), and the same annual variations occur irrespective of the hemisphere. We have identified that the bow shock location is more sensitive to variations in the solar EUV irradiance than to solar wind dynamic pressure variations. We have proposed possible interaction mechanisms between the solar EUV flux and Martian plasma environment that could explain this annual variation in bow shock location.
Martian aurorae have been detected with the SPICAM instrument on board Mars Express both in the nadir and the limb viewing modes. In this study, we focus on three limb observations to quantify both the altitudes and the intensities of the auroral emissions. The CO (a³Π - X1Σ) Cameron bands between 190 and 270 nm, the CO (A1Π - X1Σ+) Fourth Positive system (CO 4P) between 135 and 170 nm, the CO2+ (B²Σu+ - X²Πg) doublet at 289 nm, the OI at 297.2 nm and the 130.4 nm OI triplet emissions have been identified in the spectra and in the time variations of the signals. The intensities of these auroral emissions have been quantified and the altitude of the strongest emission of the CO Cameron bands has been estimated to be 137±27 km. The locations of these auroral events have also been determined and correspond to the statistical boundary of open-closed magnetic field lines, in cusp-like structures. The observed altitudes of the auroral emissions are reproduced by a Monte-Carlo model of electron transport in the Martian thermosphere for mono-energetic electrons between 60 and 200 eV. No correlation between electron fluxes measured in the upper thermosphere and nadir auroral intensity has been found. Here, we simulate auroral emissions observed both at the limb and at the nadir using electron energy spectra simultaneously measured with the ASPERA-3/ELS instrument. The simulated altitudes are in very good agreement with the observations. We find that predicted vertically integrated intensities for the various auroral emissions are overestimated, probably as a consequence of the inclination and curvature of the magnetic field line threading the aurora. However, the relative brightness of the CO and CO2+ emissions is in good agreement with the observations.