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This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs License.

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.

Published: 21 January 2019
We analyze 10 years of Mars Express total electron content (TEC) data from the Mars Advanced Radar for Subsurface and Ionospheric Sounding (MARSIS) instrument. We describe the spatial, seasonal, and solar cycle behavior of the Martian TEC. Due to orbit evolution, data come mainly from the evening, dusk terminator and postdusk nightside. The annual TEC profile shows a peak at Ls = 25–75° which is not related to the solar irradiance variation but instead coincides with an increase in the thermospheric density, possibly linked with variations in the surface pressure produced by atmospheric cycles such as the CO2 or water cycles. With the help of numerical modeling, we explore the contribution of the ion species to the TEC and the coupling between the thermosphere and ionosphere. These are the first observations which show that the TEC is a useful parameter, routinely measured by Mars Express, of the dynamics of the lower‐upper atmospheric coupling and can be used as tracer for the behavior of the thermosphere.
Published: 19 July 2018
Loss of the early Martian atmosphere is often thought to have occurred due to an effective transfer of the solar wind energy through the Martian induced magnetic barrier to the ionosphere. We have quantified the coupling efficiency by comparing the power of the heavy ion outflow with the available power supplied by the upstream solar wind. Constraining upstream solar wind density nsw, velocity vsw, and EUV intensity IEUV/photoionizing flux FXUV in varying intervals reveals a decrease in coupling efficiency, k, with solar wind dynamic pressure as kpdyn-0.74±0.13 and with FXUV as kFXUV-2.28±0.30. Despite the decrease in coupling efficiency, higher FXUV enhances the cold ion outflow, increasing the total ion escape rate as Q(FXUV) = 1010(0.82 ± 0.05)FXUV. The discrepancy between coupling and escape suggests that ion escape from Mars is primarily production limited in the modern era, though decreased coupling may lead to an energy-limited solar wind interaction under early Sun conditions.
Published: 04 August 2017

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.

Published: 21 November 2016
Understanding the origin (volcanic or sedimentary) and timing of intercrater plains is crucial for deciphering the geological evolution of Mars. We have produced a detailed geological map of the intercrater plains north of the Hellas basin, based on images from the Mars Express High-Resolution Stereo Camera, the Mars Reconnaissance High-Resolution Imaging Science Experiment, and Context. Erosional windows and fresh impact craters provide a way of studying the lithology of intercrater plain units. They are composed predominantly of light-toned sedimentary rocks with subhorizontal bedding over a broad extent (greater than tens of kilometers), showing cross-bedding stratifications locally. The broad extent, geometry, and flat topography of these sediments favor a formation by aqueous processes (alluvial and lacustrine) rather than airfall (eolian and volcaniclastic). The Late Noachian (~3.7 Ga) sedimentary plains are locally covered by dark-toned, rough-textured lava flows of Late Hesperian age (~3.3 Ga). Fe/Mg phyllosilicates were detected within sedimentary rocks, whereas volcanic rocks contain pyroxene and lack signatures of alteration, in agreement with interpretations made from texture and morphology. In erosional windows, the superimposition of sedimentary rocks by younger volcanic flows enables the estimation of an erosion rate of ~1000 nm yr-1 during the Hesperian period (3.3–3.7 Ga). Thus, our study shows that an intense sedimentary cycle occurred on the northern rim of the Hellas basin before and during the Late Noachian, leading to the formation of widespread sedimentary plains, which were then eroded, in agreement with a gradual change in the climatic conditions in this period, and later covered by volcanic flows.
Published: 14 November 2016
The Terra Sirenum region of Mars is thought to have hosted the Eridania paleolake during the Late Noachian/Early Hesperian, and it offers an insight into the regional aqueous history of Mars. We focus on four basins, including Atlantis, Simois, Caralis, and an unnamed basin. They are hypothesized to have hosted isolated lakes after the drainage of the Eridania Lake. We produced a geologic map and derived model absolute ages of our main mapped units. The map and model ages enable us to interpret the geologic history of the region. The basin floors are covered by light-toned materials containing Fe/Mg-phyllosilicates. Across most of the region, the Electris unit covers the highlands and is eroded into mesas. The deposition of this unit corresponds to air fall and/or fluvial mechanisms that transported the material into the basins and accumulated it on the plateaus and basin floors and rims. The deposits on the basin floors were later degraded into light-toned knobs that are rich in Fe/Mg-phyllosilicates. On the rim of the Simois and the unnamed basins, a sequence of Al-phyllosilicates on top of Fe/Mg-phyllosilicates has been observed. These Al-phyllosilicate-rich materials may have been formed by pedogenic leaching. The presence of chloride in the area suggests that a playa environment prevailed during the last stage of water presence or after desiccation of the lakes. In the Early Amazonian, the last aqueous activity cemented the postlacustrine air fall deposits in the basins and shows that liquid water was present in Terra Sirenum long after the Noachian.
Published: 20 November 2015
In Press; published online 26 September 2015.

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.

Published: 27 September 2015
The database of the Spectroscopy for the Investigation of the Characteristics of the Atmosphere of Mars (SPICAM) instrument between late January 2004 and Mars 2014 has been searched to identify signatures of CO Cameron and CO2+ doublet ultraviolet auroral emissions. This study has almost doubled the number of auroral detections based on SPICAM spectra. Auroral emissions are located in the vicinity of the statistical boundary between open and closed field lines. From a total of 113 nightside orbits with SPICAM pointing to the nadir in the region of residual magnetic field, only nine nightside orbits show confirmed auroral signatures, some with multiple detections along the orbital track, leading to a total of 16 detections. The mean energy of the electron energy spectra measured during concurrent Analyzer of Space Plasma and Energetic Atoms/Electron Spectrometer observations ranges from 150 to 280 eV. The ultraviolet aurora may be displaced poleward or equatorward of the region of enhanced downward electron energy flux by several tens of seconds and shows no proportionality with the electron flux at the spacecraft altitude. The absence of further UV auroral detection in regions located along crustal magnetic field structures where occasional aurora has been observed indicates that the Mars aurora is a time-dependent feature. These results are consistent with the scenario of acceleration of electrons by transient parallel electric field along semiopen magnetic field lines.
Published: 08 August 2015
Since the seasonal and spatial distribution of ozone on Mars was detected by the ultraviolet spectrometer onboard the spacecraft Mariner 7, our understanding has evolved considerably thanks to parallel efforts in observations and modelling. At low-to-mid latitudes, martian ozone is distributed vertically in two main layers, a near-surface layer and a layer at an altitude between 30 and 60 km. Here we report evidence from the SPICAM UV spectrometer onboard the Mars Express orbiter for the existence of a previously overlooked ozone layer that emerges in the southern polar night at 40–60 km in altitude, with no counterpart observed at the north pole. Comparisons with global climate simulations for Mars indicate that this layer forms as a result of the large-scale transport of oxygen-rich air from sunlit latitudes to the poles, where the oxygen atoms recombine to form ozone during the polar night. However, transport-driven ozone formation is counteracted in our simulations by the destruction of ozone by reactions with hydrogen radicals, whose concentrations vary seasonally on Mars, reflecting seasonal variations of water vapour. We conclude that the observed dichotomy between the ozone layers of the two poles, with a significantly richer layer in the southern hemisphere, can be explained by the interplay of these mechanisms.
Published: 30 September 2013
We here reassess the global distribution of several key mineral species using the entire OMEGA/Mars Express VIS-NIR imaging spectrometer data set, acquired from orbit insertion in January 2004 to August 2010. Thirty-two pixels per degree global maps of ferric oxides, pyroxenes and olivines have been derived. A significant filtering process was applied in order to exclude data acquired with unfavorable observation geometries or partial surface coverage with water and CO2 frosts. Because of strong atmospheric variations over the 3.6 Martian years of observations primarily due to the interannual variability of the aerosol opacity, a new filter based on the atmospheric dust opacity calibrated by the Mars Exploration Rovers measurements has also been implemented. The Fe3+ absorption features are present everywhere on the surface, with a variety of intensities indicating distinct formation processes. The pyroxene-bearing regions are localized in low albedo regions, while the bright regions are spectrally comparable to anhydrous nanophase ferric oxides. The expanded data set increases by a factor of about 2, the number of olivine detections reported in previous OMEGA-based studies. Olivine is mainly detected in three types of areas over the Martian surface: discontinuous patches on the terraces of the three main basins; smooth inter-crater plains and smooth crater floors throughout the southern highlands; and crater sand dunes, crater ejectas and extended bedrock exposures in the northern plains. Olivine is also detected in the low albedo pyroxene-bearing dunes surrounding the northern polar cap.
Published: 21 September 2012
We present the distribution of olivine on Mars, derived from spectral parameters based on the 1 µm olivine absorption band. The olivine can be defined with respect to two spectral end-members: type 1 corresponds to olivine with low iron content and/or small grain size and/or small abundance, and type 2, which corresponds to olivine with higher iron content and/or larger grain size and/or larger abundance. The spatial and statistical analysis of the global olivine distribution points out five major geological settings where olivine is detected: (1) Early Hesperian olivine-bearing smooth crater floors and flat intercrater plains throughout the southern highlands; (2) olivine deposits around the three main basins Argyre, Hellas, and Isidis; (3) olivine in intercrater dunes, crater ejecta, or extended deposits in the northern plains; (4) olivine associated with outcrops and sand in the floor of Valles Marineris; and (5) olivine-bearing butte outcrops in the vicinity of Hellas. The geological context, the age, and the composition of the olivine detections associated with these five major geological settings are detailed. Their origin and the implication of their occurrence on the composition of the Martian mantle and crust, as well as on the evolution of Mars volcanism are discussed.
Published: 20 February 2013
The surface of Mars has preserved the record of early environments in which its basaltic crust was altered by liquid water. These aqueous environments have survived in the form of hydrological morphologies and alteration minerals, including clays and hydrated salts. Because these minerals probe on Earth aqueous environments compatible with biotic activity, understanding their formation processes on Mars is of great exobiological relevance and also offers insight into Earth's now erased ancient water environments. Using remote sensing, we conducted a large-scale investigation of the distribution, composition, age, and geomorphic settings of hydrous minerals on Mars, providing a sharpened global view of the early aqueous environments and their evolution with time. Aqueous alteration seems to have produced clays on a planetary scale but these are found to be restricted to the oldest observable terrains on Mars (~4 Gyr). However, very diverse aqueous environments have also been found which suggest widespread, complex aqueous settings from the surface to kilometric depths, and spanning over 1 Gyr. By building a robust statistical sample of detections, the global trends inferred here attempt to provide a broad view of our current understanding of hydrous minerals on Mars and provide context for more localized, in-depth analyses. Collectively, these trends suggest that at least transient conditions have existed on Mars which may have been favorable for pre-biotic to biotic activity.
Published: 25 April 2013
The vertical structure of the nightside ionosphere of Mars and its dependence on solar zenith angle are currently poorly determined, as is the importance of two key sources of nightside plasma, electron precipitation and transport of dayside plasma. We examined 37 electron density profiles of the ionosphere of Mars at solar zenith angles of 101-123 degrees obtained by the Mars Express Radio Science Experiment MaRS between 18 August and 1 October 2005. In general, solar activity was low during this period, although several solar energetic particle events did occur. The results show: i) trends in peak electron density and altitude with solar zenith angle are consistent with transport of dayside plasma as an important plasma source up to 115 degrees, but not higher; ii) peak altitudes of around 150 km observed at larger (>115 degrees) solar zenith angles are consistent with simulated plasma production by electron precipitation; iii) peak altitudes observed during solar energetic particle events are at 90 km, consistent with accepted models. Solar energetic particle events can be the main source of nightside plasma. These results challenge current models of the nightside ionosphere, including their implications for plasma sources. The total electron content is correlated with peak electron density, requiring explanation. Due to the geographical distribution of this dataset (latitudes poleward of 38N), we do not explore the influence of crustal field strength and direction on the nightside ionosphere.
Published: 15 October 2012
Between July 2005 and July 2011 Mars Express performed 50 Deimos approaches. 136 super resolution channel (SRC) images were acquired and used for astrometric (positional) measurements of the small Martian satellite. For this study, we have developed a new technique, in which the center-of-figure of the odd-shaped Deimos is determined by fitting the predicted to the observed satellite limb. The prediction of the limb was made based on the moon's known shape model. The camera pointing was verified and corrected for by means of background star observations. We obtained a set of spacecraft-centered Deimos coordinates with accuracies between 0.6 and 3.6 km (1Ã). Comparisons with current orbit models indicate that Deimos is ahead of or falling behind its predicted position along its track by as much as +3.4 km or -4.7 km, respectively, depending on the chosen model. Our data may be used to improve the orbit models of the satellite.
Published: 25 September 2012
By examining electron density profiles from the Mars Express Radio Science Experiment MaRS, we show that the vertical structure of the dayside ionosphere of Mars is more variable and more complex than previously thought. The top of the ionosphere can be below 250 km (25% occurrence rate) or above 650 km (1%); the topside ionosphere can be well-described by a single scale height (10%) or two/three regions with distinct scale heights (25% or 10%), where those scale heights range between tens and hundreds of kilometers; the main layer of the ionosphere can have a sharply pointed (5%), flat-topped (6%), or wavy (8%) shape, in contrast to its usual Chapman-like shape; a broad increase in electron density is detected at 160-180 km (10%); a narrow increase in electron density is sometimes found in strongly-magnetized regions; and an additional layer is present between the M1 and M2 layers (3%).
Published: 19 September 2012
Coronal radio-sounding experiments were carried out using the S-band (2.3 GHz) and X-band (8.4 GHz) signals of the ESA Mars Express, Venus Express, and Rosetta spacecraft during five superior conjunctions occurring in 2004, 2006 (3×), and 2008/2009. Differential frequency and propagation delay (ranging) observations were recorded during these opportunities over the better part of a solar cycle, yielding information on the large-scale structure of the coronal electron-density distribution and its variations, including fluctuations on time scales from seconds to hours. These results concern primarily regions of slow solar wind because the radio propagation path is generally confined to the low heliolatitude regions by the conjunction. The mean frequency fluctuation and total electron content are determined as a function of heliocentric distance, and, with a few exceptions caused by streamers and CMEs, are found to be consistent with previous results from experiments on Ulysses. Dense coronal streamers and several coronal mass ejection (CME) events were identified in the radio-frequency data, some of which were observed in white light by the LASCO coronagraphs onboard SOHO. For those events with sufficient mutual coverage, good correlations are found between the electron-content fluctuations and structure imaged by the LASCO instrument.
Published: 16 July 2012
The Tyrrhena Terra region of Mars is studied with the imaging spectrometers OMEGA (Observatoire pour la Minéralogie, l'Eau, les Glaces et l'Activité) onboard Mars Express and CRISM (Compact Reconnaissance Infrared Spectrometer for Mars) onboard Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, through the observation of tens of craters that impacted into this part of the martian highlands. The 175 detections of hydrated silicates are reported, mainly associated with ejecta blankets, crater walls and rims, and central up-lifts. Sizes of craters where hydrated silicates are detected are highly variable, diameters range from less than 1 km to 42 km. We report the presence of zeolites and phyllosilicates like prehnite, Mg-chlorite, Mg-rich smectites and mixed-layer chlorites-smectites and chlorite-vermiculite from comparison of hyperspectral infrared observations with laboratory spectra. These minerals are associated with fresh craters post-dating any aqueous activity. They likely represent ancient hydrated terrains excavated by the crater-forming impacts, and hence reveal the composition of the altered Noachian crust, although crater-related hydrothermal activity may have played a minor role for the largest craters (>20 km in diameter). Most detected minerals formed over relatively high temperatures (100-300 °C), likely due to aqueous alteration of the Noachian crust by regional low grade metamorphism from the Noachian thermal gradient and/or by extended hydrothermal systems associated with Noachian volcanism and ancient large impact craters. [Abstract abbreviated due to character limitations.]
Published: 16 May 2012
Radio science tracking of Mars Express (MaRS experiment) and Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter produced high resolution Martian gravity data. Applying localized spectral analysis on the new gravity data sets, we study the surface density and lithospheric elastic thickness in the Tharsis province. The gravity signal is predicted with geophysical models either including bottom loading (top/bottom model) or taking into account the loading history (top/top model). Volcanic shields are mainly composed of high-density lava but their construction could have begun with lower density lava, with the exception of Ascraeus Mons which has a top of lower density. Buoyant bottom loading may have been present in the form of a mantle plume under Olympus Mons. The elastic thickness was much larger at Olympus Mons than at other volcanoes, suggesting large spatial variations of heat flux during the Hesperian. Alternatively, small elastic thicknesses could be artifacts reflecting the presence of very localized high-density crustal intrusions beneath the volcanoes. Thaumasia highlands were probably supported by a mantle plume at the time of formation. In Valles Marineris, top/bottom models predict low densities and large elastic thicknesses, in conflict with the basaltic rock composition and Hesperian age of the valley. Dense mafic dikes underlie the western part of the valley. The top/top model serves to test another scenario in which the trough is formed with sedimentary infilling removed much later by erosion, the elastic thickness increasing in between. At the large volcanoes, the relation between gravity and topography is anisotropic probably because of density variations.
Published: 05 April 2012
In Press Solar wind controls non-thermal escape of planetary atmospheric volatiles, regardless of the strength of planetary magnetic fields. For both Earth with a strong dipole and Mars with weak remnant fields, the oxygen ion (O+) outflow has been separately found to be enhanced during corotating interaction region (CIR) passage. Here we compared the enhancements of O+ outflow on Earth and Mars driven by a CIR in January, 2008 when Sun, Earth and Mars were approximately aligned. The CIR propagation was recorded by STEREO, ACE, Cluster and Mars Express (MEX). During the CIR passage, Cluster observed enhanced flux of upwelling oxygen ions above the Earth's polar region, while MEX detected an increased escape flux of oxygen ions in the Martian magnetosphere. We found that, (1) under a solar wind dynamic pressure increase by 2-3 nPa, the rate of increase in Martian O+ outflow flux was one order higher than those on Earth; (2) as response to the same part of the CIR body, the rate of increase in Martian O+ outflow flux was on the same order as for Earth. The comparison results imply that the dipole effectively prevents coupling of solar wind kinetic energy to planetary ions, and the distance to the Sun is also crucially important for planetary volatile loss in our inner solar system.
Published: 06 January 2012
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