Amazonis Planitia

Amazonis Planitia

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Amazonis Planitia is one of the smoothest plains on Mars
Mars
Mars is the fourth planet from the Sun in the Solar System. The planet is named after the Roman god of war, Mars. It is often described as the "Red Planet", as the iron oxide prevalent on its surface gives it a reddish appearance...

. It is located between the Tharsis
Tharsis
The Tharsis region on Mars is a vast volcanic plateau centered near the equator in Mars’ western hemisphere. The region is home to the largest volcanoes in the Solar System, including the three enormous shield volcanoes Arsia Mons, Pavonis Mons, and Ascraeus Mons, which are collectively known as...

 and Elysium
Elysium Planitia
Elysium Planitia is the second largest volcanic region on Mars, after Tharsis Montes. It is centered at . It includes volcanoes, from north to south, Hecates Tholus, Elysium Mons and Albor Tholus. Another large volcano, Apollinaris Mons, lies south of the others. Besides having large volcanoes,...

 volcanic provinces to the west of Olympus Mons
Olympus Mons
Olympus Mons is a large volcanic mountain on the planet Mars. At a height of almost , it is one of the tallest mountains in the Solar System, three times as tall as Mount Everest and more than twice the height of Mauna Kea the tallest mountain on Earth. Olympus Mons is the youngest of the large...

 in the Valles Marineris
Valles Marineris
Valles Marineris is a system of canyons that runs along the Martian surface east of the Tharsis region...

 region of the Memnonia quadrangle, centered at 24.8°N 196.0°W. The plain's topography exhibits extremely smooth features at several different lengths of scale.

Its name derives from one of the classical albedo features observed by early astronomers, which was in turn named after the Amazons
Amazons
The Amazons are a nation of all-female warriors in Greek mythology and Classical antiquity. Herodotus placed them in a region bordering Scythia in Sarmatia...

, a mythical race of warrior women.

Age & Composition


Only approximately 100 million years old, these plains provide some of the fewest sedimentary layers impeding viewing of the Martian terrain, and closely resemble the composition of Earth's Iceland
Iceland
Iceland , described as the Republic of Iceland, is a Nordic and European island country in the North Atlantic Ocean, on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. Iceland also refers to the main island of the country, which contains almost all the population and almost all the land area. The country has a population...

. Formed by free-flowing lava
Lava
Lava refers both to molten rock expelled by a volcano during an eruption and the resulting rock after solidification and cooling. This molten rock is formed in the interior of some planets, including Earth, and some of their satellites. When first erupted from a volcanic vent, lava is a liquid at...

 across great plains, Amazonis has been described by William Hartmann
William Kenneth Hartmann
William K. Hartmann is a noted planetary scientist, author, and writer. He was the first to convince the scientific mainstream that the Earth had once been hit by a planet sized body , creating both the moon and the Earth's 23° tilt....

 as a "bright dusty volcanic desert crossed by many fresh-looking lava flows."

Amazonis has become the primary focus of modern research efforts both because of its geological composition and because of its relative youth compared to other Martian regions, which are often hundreds of millions of years older. Hartman writes that the plain closely resembles Iceland's surface, with its "strange cobweb-like networks of ridges and crags [on both planets, divide] smoother areas into a pattern something like fragments of a broken plate." Both land masses' shapes have been formed by lava flows from volcanic eruptions, causing both surfaces to be covered by a thick layer of hardened lava. Findings from aerial footage of both Amazonis and Iceland have shown nearly identical terrain patterns, signifying the comparative ages of the two regions.

Ironically, the entire contemporary era on Mars has been named the Amazonian Epoch because researchers originally (and incorrectly) thought Amazonis Planitia to be representative of all Martian plains. Instead, over the past two decades, researchers have realized that the area's youth and extremely smooth surface actually distinguish the area from its neighbors. It is even possible that the area possessed distinctive characteristics when all of Mars was under water.

Although the full implications of Amazonis's youth have not yet been determined, the nature of the area (i.e. lack of sedimentary rock) has at least provided researchers evidence that the areas are the most likely to provide future discoveries, and as such, has been proposed as a future site for most NASA landings.

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