Martian Dichotomy

The most conspicuous feature of Martian surface geology is a sharp contrast, known as the Martian dichotomy, between the rugged southern highlands and the relatively smooth northern basins. The two hemispheres differ in elevation by 1 to 3 km. The average thickness of the Martian crust is 45 km, with 32 km in the northern lowlands region, and 58 km in the southern highlands.

The boundary between the two regions is quite complex in places. One distinctive type of topography is called fretted terrain. It contains mesas, knobs, and flat-floored valleys having walls about a mile high. Around many of the mesas and knobs are lobate debris aprons that have been shown to be rock-covered glaciers.

Many large river valleys cut through the dichotomy.

The Martian dichotomy boundary includes the regions called Deuteronilus Mensae, Protonilus Mensae, and Nilosyrtis Mensae. All three regions have been studied extensively because they contain landforms believed to have been produced by the movement of ice.

The northern lowlands comprise about one-third of the surface of Mars and are relatively flat, with occasional impact craters. The other two-thirds of the Martian surface are the highlands of the southern hemisphere. The difference in elevation between the hemispheres is dramatic. Because of the density of impact craters, scientists believe the southern hemisphere to be far older than the northern plains. The heavily cratered southern highlands date back to the period of heavy bombardment. Three major hypotheses have been proposed for the origin of the crustal dichotomy: endogenic (by mantle processes), single impact, or multiple impact. Both impact-related hypotheses involve processes that could have occurred before the end of the primordial bombardment, implying that the crustal dichotomy has its origins early in the history of Mars.

Read more about Martian DichotomySingle Impact Hypothesis, Endogenic Origin Hypothesis, Multiple Impact Hypothesis, See Also

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Geography Of Mars - Topography - Martian Dichotomy
... Observers of Martian topography will notice a dichotomy between the northern and southern hemispheres ... Other interesting features are the large river valleys and outflow channels that cut through the dichotomy ... The other two-thirds of the Martian surface are the southern highlands ...

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