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The lunae Palus quadrangle is one of a series of 30 quadrangle maps of Mars used by the United States Geological Survey (USGS) Astrogeology Research Program. The Lunae Palus quadrangle is also referred to as MC-10 (Mars Chart-10).[1]

The Lunae Palus quadrangle covers the area from 45° to 90° west longitude and 0° to 30° north latitude on Mars. The Viking I Lander (part of Viking program) landed in the Lunae Palus quadrangle on July 20, 1976, at 22.4° N and 47.5° W. It was the first robot spacecraft to successfully land on the Red Planet.[2]


Results From Viking I Mission

What would it look like walking around the landing site

The sky would be a light pink. The dirt would also appear pink. Rocks of many sizes would be spread about. One large rock, named Big Joe, is as big as a banquet table. Some boulders would show erosion due to the wind.[3] There would be many small sand dunes that are still active. The wind speed would typically be 7 meters per second (16 miles per hour). There would be a hard crust on the top of the soil similar to a deposit, called caliche which is common in the U.S. Southwest.[4][5] Such crusts are formed by solutions of minerals moving up through soil and evaporating at the surface.[6]

Analysis of Soil

The soil resembled those produced from the weathering of basaltic lavas. The tested soil contained abundant silicon and iron, along with significant amounts of magnesium, aluminum, sulfur, calcium, and titanium. Trace elements, strontium and yttrium, were detected. The amount of potassium was 5 times lower than the average for the Earth's crust. Some chemicals in the soil contained sulfur and chlorine that were like those remaining after the evaporation of sea water. Sulfur was more concentrated in the crust on top of the soil then in the bulk soil beneath. The sulfur may be present as sulfates of sodium, magnesium, calcium, or iron. A sulfide of iron is also possible.[7] Both the Spirit Rover and the Opportunity Rover also found sulfates on Mars; consequently surfates may be common on the Martian surface.[8] The Opportunity Rover (landed in 2004 with advanced instruments) found magnesium sulfate and calcium sulfate at Meridiani Planum.[9] Using results from the chemical measurements, mineral models suggest that the soil could be a mixture of about 90% iron-rich clay, about 10% magnesium sulfate (kieserite?), about 5% carbonate (calcite), and about 5% iron oxides (hematite, magnetite, goethite?). These minerals are typical weathering products of mafic igneous rocks.[10] Studies with magnets aboard the landers indicated that the soil is between 3 and 7 percent magnetic materials by weight. The magnetic chemicals could be magnetite and maghemite. These could come from the weathering of basalt rock.[11][12] Experiments carried out by the Mars Spirit Rover (landed in 2004) indicated that magnetite could explain the magnetic nature of the dust and soil on Mars. Magnetite was found in the soil and that the most magnetic part of the soil was dark. Magnetite is very dark.[13]

Search for Life

Viking did three experiments looking for life. The results were surprising and interesting. Most scientists now believe that the data were due to inorganic chemical reactions of the soil. But a few still believe the results were due to living reactions. No organic chemicals were found in the soil. However, dry areas of Antarctica do not have detectable organic compounds either, but they have organisms living in the rocks.[14] Mars has almost no ozone layer, like the Earth, so UV light sterilizes the surface and produces highly reactive chemicals such as peroxides that would oxidize any organic chemicals.[15] Perchlorate may be the oxidizing chemical. The Phoenix Lander discovered the chemical perchlorate in the Martian Soil. Perchlorate is a strong oxidant so it may have destroyed any organic matter on the surface.[16] If it is widespread on Mars, carbon-based life would be difficult at the soil surface.

River Valleys Observed by Viking Orbiters

The Viking Orbiters caused a revolution in our ideas about water on Mars. Huge river valleys were found in many areas. They showed that floods of water broke through dams, carved deep valleys, eroded grooves into bedrock, and traveled thousands of kilometers.[17][18][19]

Mars Science Laboratory

Hypanis Vallis, in the Lunae Palus quadrangle, is one of the sites proposed as a landing site for the Mars Science Laboratory. The aim of the Mars Science Laboratory is to search for signs of ancient life. It is hoped that a later mission could then return samples from sites identified as probably containing remains of life. To safely bring the craft down, a 12 mile wide, smooth, flat circle is needed. Geologists hope to examine places where water once ponded.[20] They would like to examine sediment layers.

Kasei Valles

One of the most significant features of the Lunae Palus region, Kasei Valles, is one of the largest outflow channels on Mars. Like other outflow channels, it was carved by liquid water, probably during gigantic floods.

Kasei is about 2,400 kilometers (1,500 miles)long. Some sections of Kasei Valles are 300 kilometers (200 miles) wide. It begins in Echus Chasma, near Valles Marineris, and empties into Chryse Planitia, not far from where Viking 1 landed. Sacra Mensa, a large tableland divides Kasei into northern and southern channels. It is one of the longest continuous outflow channels on Mars. At around 20° north latitude Kasei Valles splits into two channels, called Kasei Vallis Canyon and North Kasei Channel. Thes branches recombine at around 63° west longitude. Some parts of Kasei Valles are 2–3 km deep.[21]

Scientists suggest it was formed several episodes of flooding and maybe by some glacial activity.[22]


Researchers have found a number of examples of deltas that formed in Martian lakes. Finding deltas is a major sign that Mars once had a lot of water. Deltas often require deep water over a long period of time to form. Also, the water level needs to be stable to keep sediment from washing away. Deltas have been found over a wide geographical range.[23]


See also


  1. ^ Davies, M.E.; Batson, R.M.; Wu, S.S.C. “Geodesy and Cartography” in Kieffer, H.H.; Jakosky, B.M.; Snyder, C.W.; Matthews, M.S., Eds. Mars. University of Arizona Press: Tucson, 1992.
  2. ^
  3. ^ Mutch, T. et al. 1976. The Surface of Mars: The View from the Viking 2 Lander. Science: 194. 1277-1283.
  4. ^ Clark, B. et al. 1978. Implications of Abundant Hygroscopic Minerals in the Martain Regolith. Icarus: 34. 645-665
  5. ^ Toulmin III, P. et al. 1977. Geochemical and Mineralogical Interpretation of the Viking Inorganic Chemical Results. Journal of Geophysical Research: 82. 4624-4634
  6. ^ Arvidson, R. A. Binder, and K. Jones. 1976. The Surface of Mars. Scientific American: 238. 76-89.
  7. ^ Clark, B. et al. 1976. Inorganic Analysis of Martian Samples at the Viking Landing Sites. Science: 194. 1283-1288.
  8. ^
  9. ^ Christensen, P. et al. 2004. Mineralogy at Meridiani Planum from the Mini-TES Experiment on the Opportunity Rover. Science: 306. 1733-1739
  10. ^ Baird, A. et al. 1976. Mineralogic and Petrologic Implications of Viking Geochemical Results From Mars: Interim Report. Science: 194. 1288-1293.
  11. ^ Hargraves, R. et al. 1976. Viking Magnetic Properties Investigation: Further Results. Science: 194. 1303-1309.
  12. ^ Arvidson, R, A. Binder, and K. Jones. The Surface of Mars. Scientific American
  13. ^ Bertelsen, P. et al. 2004. Magnetic Properties Experiements on the Mars Exploration rover Spirit at Gusev Crater. Science: 305. 827-829.
  14. ^ Friedmann, E. 1982. Endolithic Microorganisms in the Antarctic Cold Desert. Science: 215. 1045-1052.
  15. ^ Hartmann, W. 2003. A Traveler's Guide to Mars. Workman Publishing. NY NY.
  16. ^
  17. ^ ISBN 0-8165-1257-4
  18. ^ Raeburn, P. 1998. Uncovering the Secrets of the Red Planet Mars. National Geographic Society. Washington D.C.
  19. ^ Moore, P. et al. 1990. The Atlas of the Solar System. Mitchell Beazley Publishers NY, NY.
  20. ^
  21. ^ Baker, V. 1982. The Channels of Mars. University of Texas Press. Austin
  22. ^
  23. ^ Irwin III, R. et al. 2005. An intense terminal epoch of widespread fluvial activity on early Mars: 2. Increased runoff and paleolake development. Journal of Geophysical Research: 10. E12S15


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