Identification of possible recent water/lava source vents in the Cerberus plains: Stratigraphic and crater count age constraints


  • Rebecca J. Thomas

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Earth Sciences, Birkbeck, University of London, London, UK
    2. Department of Physical Science, Open University, Milton Keynes, UK
    • Corresponding author: R. J. Thomas, Department of Physical Science, Open University, Walton Hall, Milton Keynes MK7 6AA, UK. (

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[1] In order to investigate sources of lava and water to the Cerberus plains of Mars, geomorphological mapping on High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) images was carried out to reveal the history of activity of fissures and pits which lie upstream of channels and deposits associated with a wrinkle ridge near Cerberus Fossae. The fissures and pits are superbly exposed and imaged, and flows and channels emanate directly from them, interpreted as clear evidence that these are vents. The mapping establishes stratigraphic relationships between the plains and the channels and deposits originating from the vents, establishing the vent history. For example, to the south of the wrinkle ridge, both incised channels and leveed flows extend onto the southern plain and are clearly the final phase of plains-forming activity. Conversely, to the north, vent-sourced channels only incise the plain close to the ridge—beyond that, they are overlain by large-scale regional flows that appear to have originated from the direction of Athabasca Valles. In the southeast, there is evidence of contemporaneity between vent-sourced activity and large-scale plains-forming flow that was not sourced from the vents, indicating that activity here was part of a broader process of Cerberus plains formation from multiple sources. Crater counts show all the activity to be Late Amazonian, with the latest activity tentatively dating to circa 11 Ma. Thus, this study implies that very recent outflows from these vents contributed to the formation of the Cerberus plains and constrains the timing and local flow direction of plains-forming deposits from other sources.