Magellan observations of Alpha Regio: Implications for formation of complex ridged terrains on Venus


  • Duane L. Bindschadler,

  • Annette DeCharon,

  • Kathi K. Beratan,

  • Suzanne E. Smrekar,

  • James W. Head


Magellan images of Alpha Regio reveal previously undetected structures and details of the morphology of this region of complex ridged terrain. We examine the complex ridged terrain of Alpha Regio, using morphology and crosscutting relationships between structures to derive a sequence of tectonic events. Structures include broad (∼10–20 km wide) linear and arcuate ridges, fine-scale (<3 km wide) ridges, linear disruption zones (LDZs) up to several kilometers wide, and numerous grabens (∼5 km wide) and associated scarps and troughs. Based on their morphology, we interpret the broad and fine-scale ridges as compressional structures, possibly folds. LDZs appear to be due to small amounts of lateral shear which most commonly disrupts the older ridge fabric. Graben and associated structures are interpreted as extensional features. They crosscut ridges and LDZs and thus appear to be the youngest structures in Alpha Regio. This sequence of events and information on the orientation of these various structures are compared to the predictions of two models for the formation of complex ridged terrain (and highlands on Venus in general): a hotspot model and a coldspot model. The presence of compressional features along and parallel to the margins of Alpha Regio and the lack of any high-elevation ring of extensional features are more consistent with a coldspot or roughly axisymmetric mantle downwelling. Mantle downwelling appears to be the most likely mode of formation of the upland of Alpha Regio and is likely to be important in other highland regions, such as Ovda and Thetis regiones, which are also dominated by complex ridged terrain.