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Mars, a Testament to Catastrophe

By

Charles Creager Jr.

Originally Published In
Answers Research Journal


Abstract

 Opposite Hellas the largest impact basin on Mars are the Tharsis volcanoes, the largest volcanoes in the Solar System. Directly opposite the center of Hellas impact basin is the volcano called Alba Patera. Alba Patera is the largest Martian volcano by surface area.  Coming off of the Tharsis plateau is Valles Marineris the largest known valley in the solar system.

The unlikely geographic relationship between these gigantic features suggests a cause and effect relationship between them. This implies a global Martian catastrophe comparable in scale to the Genesis Flood.

The twin rovers Opportunity and Spirit have provided evidence in support of a Martian geological catastrophe. Data sent from Opportunity (and from orbit) show that it landed in an area that was catastrophically flooded from the south forming a large splat zone in the north.

Current data provide an excellent starting point for a young Mars catastrophic geologic model allowing the formation of a core young Mars model. 


Introduction

 Mars captures the imagination more than any other planet. No other known planet has as Earthlike an environment as Mars, but yet they are still very different. Mars is enough like Earth that Evolutionists have expected to find life there, but none has yet been found.

Probes sent to Mars have sent back gigabytes of data which have been made readily available on the internet. This wealth of data not only provides a unique opportunity to watch uniformitarian geologists build a model of planetary history from scratch but it also provides creationists with an opportunity to do the same.

In this case the raw data are readily available to any one with a computer, so that research can be done even with the smallest of budgets. The result is as nearly level a playing field as is likely ever to exist between competing ideas.

Using this wealth of data has revealed a relationship between three different major Martian geological features, all of which are among the largest of their type in the Solar System. These geological features include the Hellas impact basin, the Tharsis volcanoes and Valles Marineris. The relationship between these gigantic features is unlikely to be a result of chance, suggesting a cause and effect relationship between them. This implies a global Martian geological catastrophe comparable in scale to the Genesis Flood. 

The idea of this Martian catastrophe is supported by additional evidence from the twin rovers Opportunity and Spirit. Opportunity seems to have landed in an area that was catastrophically flooded despite uniformitarian claims of it having been a long standing sea.


 Uniformitarianism on Mars

 Even on Mars uniformitarian geologists are so locked into the idea of geological ages associated with a geological column, that when they see different layers of rock they think geological ages. Researchers at JPL are already claiming that the rock layers; found by the rover Opportunity; are billions of years old before even one radioisotope has been measured. (Chang, 2005)  It has been stated that these layers represent different epochs of Martian history despite evidence that they are only a local occurrence. They do this based on their preconceptions resulting from how they think the Solar system formed. It is evident that by the time these rocks are actually radiometrically dated, uniformitarian geologists will already “know” how old they are so that they will know which results to disregard as contamination and which to make public.


Creationist opportunity

Mars presents creationists with an opportunity to build a model of planetary geological history from scratch. Furthermore, because the raw data of JPL’s Martian probes are freely available on the internet Mars can be studied on even the smallest of budgets.

Uniformitarian theories of Martian geological history will likely be used against creationists in the future, but because of the availability of the data creationists have the opportunity to be prepared in advance.


Martian Geographic Oddities

Hellas is not only the largest impact basin on Mars; it is one of the largest known impact basins in the Solar System. Hellas is in basically a crater is about 2100 km (1300 miles) in diameter and 9 km (5.6 miles) deep. For comparison Hellas is about half the size of the continental United States and about as deep as Mt Everest is high.

Hellas’ center is located at about 70o E and 40 o S. The bottom of Hellas is the only place on Mars with a high enough atmospheric pressure for liquid water to stay on the surface.18  The energy of the Hellas impact has been estimated at about 5.33X1026 joules.21 This is a blast of 1.27 X1011 Megatons which is equivalent to 8.48 X 1012 atomic bombs the size of the one dropped on Hiroshima. 24

The Hellas impact dwarfs any known impact sites on Earth. For example the famous 1908 Tunguska explosion, is estimated at about 500 kilotons. The Chicxulub impact; though by evolutionists to have killed of the dinosaurs; is estimated at about108 Megatons and produced a crater at most 180km across. 7 Even Earth’s largest known impact crater the Vredefort dome is only about 300 Km in diameter. 23 Despite their relatively small size, these Earth impact sites do provide insight into the results of large impacts. For example the Chicxulub impact is would have put so much dust into Earth’s atmosphere that it is accredited by most paleontologists with killing off the dinosaurs. The Hellas impact would clearly have thrown up thousands of times as much dust into the Martian atmosphere.

If the impacting body came from the asteroid belt the impacting velocity would be about 7 km/s.  Using the formula for kinetic energy (K = MV2) results in a mass of 2.2 X 1019 kg. This is a mass similar to that of the asteroid Juno which has a diameter of about 206 km.. 25 

Opposite Hellas on the Martian surface are the Tharsis volcanoes. These also are the largest volcanoes in the Solar System. Directly opposite the center of Hellas (at about 110o W and 40 o N) 8  is western side of Alba Patera’s caldera.  Alba Patera is the largest Martian volcano by surface area.  Coming off of the Tharsis plateau is Valles Marineris the largest known valley in the solar system.

Figure 1. Map of Mars’ global topography. It shows the uneven crater distribution. (Courtesy GSFC/NASA)
  A Hellas impact basin. D Alba Patera.  
B Tharsis plateau and its volcanoes. E Valles Marineris.
C Meridiani Planum. F Argyre impact basin.

Yet another Martian geographic oddity is that most Martian crates form a hemispherical pattern on the surface. Furthermore, the center of this hemispherical pattern is about 30o west of the center of Hellas, placing Hellas near the center of this hemisphere. (Figure 1.)


  Spirit and Opportunity

Figure 2. Erosion patterns found by Opportunity (Courtesy NASA/JPL/Cornell/US Geological  Survey )

 In January 2004 the twin rovers Spirit and Opportunity landed on Mars and since then they have sent bank a wealth of data. Both rovers found that that Martian soil is largely volcanic dust. 9 11 Many of the rocks examined by these rovers are composed of basalt a volcanic rock.10 Furthermore many of the rocks seen by Spirit are broken as if damaged by impacting the ground.

Figure 3. Erosion patterns found by Opportunity, including hematite spheres on sticks
(Courtesy NASA/JPL/Cornell/US Geological  Survey )

When Opportunity landed in the Meridiani Planum region of Mars, the scene that it showed was strange even for Mars. The soil was darker than that at other landing sites and the ground was covered with innumerable spherical hematite nodules. 13 16 The out cropping of rocks in the crater where Opportunity landed are layered and show evidence of having been laid down by water. 14 15 They were also strangely eroded.  The rocks had hematite nodules embedded in them (Figure 2.) and some had the nodules out on sticks of rock. (Figure 3.) These patterns have persisted throughout the area explored by Opportunity, though the deeper craters show deeper rocks with layers of different rocks. (Figure 4.) Chemical analysis shows that much of the rock in Meridiani Planum contain sulfates which is a by-product of the reaction of sulfuric acid and water. 12 17

Figure 4.  The deep layers of the “Burns Cliff" at Endurance crater.
(Courtesy NASA/JPL/Cornell/US Geological  Survey )

The Meridiani Planum region shows evidence of large amounts of water flowing into it in catastrophic manner, including an inflow channel at one end and a splatter zone at the other end. (Figure 5.) This inflow channel has ridges that are consistent with a flow cannel and the splatter zone shows evidence of flowing over underling terrain in a chaotic fashion similar to the termination of a mud flow. This evidence suggests that Meridiani Planum suffered catastrophic flooding at some time in the past. The fact the craters studied by Opportunity were blasted through layers of rock shows that the flooding happened before these impacts, however other craters in the area  show evidence of having been formed before the flooding in the sedimentary patterns of the craters. These craters have sedimentary deposits up against the crater wall opposite the direction of the flow of water.

Figure 5. The Meridiani Planum region of Mars. The region where Opportunity landed. 
Note the in flow channel to the south east and the splat zone in the north.
(Courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech)   


 Discussion

The Hellas impact would have sent a shock wave around and through the planet that would have been focused onto the exact opposite side of the planet (Alba Patera) from the impact. This focusing of the shock wave would have caused cracks in the crust. Furthermore if the crust were particularly weak in the area with a pool of magma below it, such a crack would have resulted in a sudden burst of volcanic activity at this point. It also possible that cracks could have continued along the area of weakened crust forming other volcanoes. This is supported by the fact that four of the Tharsis volcanoes (Ceraunius Tholus, Ascraeus Mons, Pavonis Mons and Arsia Mons) form a nearly straight line. While connections between Hellas and the Tharsis volcanoes  as well as Hellas and Alba Patera have been suggest before, 24 22 they have been limited to the basic concept and not as detailed a model as presented here.

While no Earth bound impacts show this type of affect, Mercury shows that they can occur.  Mercury’s largest impact basin is the Caloris Basin. It has a diameter of 1,300 km,  (800 miles) which is about 2/3 that of Hellas.5 On the opposite side of Mercury from the Caloris Basin is a lineated and hilly area about 100km (62 milles) across where the crust seems to have been broken into jumbled blocks by the Caloris impact. 4  

The result is that massive amounts of volcanic activity would have occurred filling the atmosphere with volcanic ash. Included in the mix would be a large mount of sulfur. If the volcanic activity were high enough the ash would increase Mars’ atmospheric pressure to a point where liquid water could exist. Much of the volcanic material would form the volcanic mounts. In Tharsis the concentration of volcanoes would have caused a pile up of volcanic material forming much if not all of the Tharsis plateau.  The remainder of the volcanic ash covered the planet becoming a major component of its soil.The volcanoes seem to have also ejected chunks of lava that cooled and solidified in flight. Some these rocks landed near Spirit future landing site which show the cracks of their impacts.

At first glance the hemispherical pattern of craters seems hard to explain by the resurfacing of the lightly cratered north. The fact the Hellas is near the center of this hemispherical pattern further complicates the problem but the relationship between Hellas and Tharsis provides a solution. A closer look shows that the southern dip in the crater pattern is entirely part of Tharsis suggesting that the plateau likely covered part of the southern highlands making them look more hemispherical. (Figure 1) This is also supported by crustal thickness measurements from Mars Global Surveyor. 26 Further more the fact that Hellas is on the opposite side of the planet from Tharsis would naturally place it near the center of hemispherical pattern.

Since the Northern lowlands have a lower elevation than the highlands, considerably more of the volcanic and ejected impact material settled in the northern region of the planet. This is because it is easier for dust to be blown from a higher to a lower elevation. This process would have been aided by the fact that the most if not all of the volcanism occurred on thinner lowland crust. The result would be a nearly complete resurfacing of the northern lowlands.

Valles Marineris is a large rift valley about 4,000 km (2500 miles) long which is about the same as the continental United States. Its identity as a rift valley is supported by a sudden decease in crust thickness under the valley. 26 This suggests that the crust has been stretched in that area. The cause could have simply been the seismic activity associated with the Tharsis volcanoes but the proximity of the Argyre impact Basin offers another possibility. The shock from this impact may have rotated the crust under the southern part of Tharsis stretching crust at Valles Marineris and compressing it to the south west.

The flooding at Meridiani Planum seems to have originated at about 12o S and 31o E. This is based on the patterns of deposited material in the surrounding terrain. The eruption of water from underground seems to be the most likely source of water since underground water would be under pressure causing it to be ejected at high velocity resulting in the erosion of considerable amounts of material to become the sedimentary rocks found by Opportunity. However an impacting body can not yet be eliminated as a possible source because an eruption point has yet to be found.

While some of the flood water went in different directions most of it would have rushed downhill into the Meridiani Planum region. This water would be loaded with material, some of which was deposited over the area explored by Opportunity. Since sedimentation in moving water can form multiple layer simultaneously,2 19 such a sudden flow of rushing water could have easily laid down the rock layers observed in the Meridiani Planum region. The leading edge of the flowing water would form a splat zone as is observed to the north of the Meridiani Planum region.

 Once flooded the water would likely have remained as long as the volcanic ash covered the planet. As the volcanic ash settled the sulfur would have reacted with the water to form sulfuric acid.  As a result the environment of this temporary lake would have been more like that of a car battery than an ocean.  The presence of concentrated sulfuric acid would have aided the formation of the hematite spheres that Opportunity found all over the area

 The craters studied by Opportunity seem to be the result of impacts that occurred while the area was flooded. The concentrated sulfuric acid would have eroded the exposed rocks producing the observed erosion patterns, including hematite spheres on a stick of rock.1

 Given the evidence that the Earth received a significant number of impacts during the Flood, 20 and that the size distribution of craters show that the Earth and Mars were hit by the same population of objects it is likely that these events occurred at about the time of the Genesis Flood.  Available data is consistent with such a bombardment since most the impacts on Earth would have been spread over the year of the Flood with a smaller number after ward. 

 The model presented here is a starting point. More research is needed not only in the areas mentioned, but the rest of Mars as well. Mars presents an excellent opportunity for creation research. There are many riverbed-like channels that suggest Meridiani Planum was not the only part of Mars to have been flooded in the past.  It is hoped that this paper is just the beginning and that it will inspire more creationist research on Mars.


 Conclusion

Finding the largest in the Solar System of three different major geological features on the same planet is improbable enough, but finding a geographic relationship between them suggests a cause and effect relationship. Finding the largest known impact basin, volcanoes, and valley in the solar system in a cause and effect relationship suggest a major catastrophe in Marian history.

Despite the evidence for catastrophe the geologists at JPL interpret what they see as being laid over a long period of time. This is a natural result of their uniformitarian mind set.

While data from both Spirit and Opportunity support a catastrophic model of Martian geology, Opportunity has shown that Meridiani Planum was catastrophically flooded at about the same time as the other catastrophic events on Mars. With these events occurring about the same time as the Genesis Flood.

This provides a starting point for a young Mars catastrophic geologic model. While more research is needed, the model as presented here shows that Martian geology fit with a recent creation.


 References

1.  Iron Oxide Weathering in Sulfuric Acid: Implications for Mars. Lunar and Planetary Science. Arlauckas, S.M; Hurowitz, J.A; Tosca, N.J; McLennan, S.M. (2004).

2. Geological Dating Principles questioned.Berthault, G. 2008.

3. A Jekyll-and-Hyde View of Mars. SPACE.com. Chang, Alicia. (2005).  

4. Hills of Mercury. Views of the Solar System. Hamilton, Calvin J.. (1995).

5.  Caloris Basin. Views of the Solar System.Hamilton, Calvin J.. (1995b).

6. IBERIA EXPLOSION: Reconstructing an Asteroid Impact from Eywitness Accounts Hartmann, William K. 2003. 1908 S

7.  Discovering the Crater, JPL. Kring, David A. 2008./

8. MGS MOC Release No. MOC2-588. Malin space science systems. (2003).

9. PIA05112: Mysterious Lava Mineral on Mars. NASA/JPL/Cornell/ASU. (2004a)

10. PIA05174: Adirondack's Inner Self. NASA/JPL/Cornell/ASU. (2004b)

11. PIA05203: Meridiani's Autograph. NASA/JPL/Cornell/ASU. (2004c).

12. PIA05483: A Trail of Salts. NASA/JPL/Cornell/ASU. (2004d).

13. PIA05587: A Bowl of Hematite-Rich. NASA/JPL/Cornell/ASU. (2004e).  

14. PIA05624: "Upper Dells" Clues to Watery History. NASA/JPL/Cornell/ASU. (2004f).  

15. PIA05625: "Last Chance" Evidence of Ancient Water Flow. NASA/JPL/Cornell/ASU. (2004g).

16.  PIA05640: Keepers of the Hematite. NASA/JPL/Cornell/ASU. (2004h). 

17. PIA06013: The Colors of "Endurance". NASA/JPL/Cornell/ASU. (2004i).

18. Making a Splash on Mars. Phillips, Tony. (2000)

19. Toppling the Timescale Part II: Unearthing the Cornerstone. Creation Research Society Quarterly. Volume 44, Pg. 256-263.Reed, John. (2008)

20. Earth Impacts and Noah’s Flood. Creationanswers.net. Spencer, Wayne. (1998).

21. Mars Impact Energy Analysis in Support of the Origin of the Crustaldichotomy and Other Anomalies. Spexarth, G. R.. (2004)

22.  A Comparison of the Volcanoes on Earth with the Volcanoes on Mars. NASA LTP Real World Science: Scott, Theresa M. et al. (2001)

23. Impact Structures Sorted by Diameter. Planetary and Space Science Centre University of New Brunswick.Spray, John et al. 2008.

24. The Atomic Bombing of Hiroshima. US Department of Energy. 2000.

25. CRC Handbook of Chemistry and Physics 64th edition. Pg F-129 Weast, Robert et al. (1983).

26. Mars Global Surveyor Reveals the Internal Structure of Mars. Zuber, M.T. (2000)

 

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