Distribution and Morphologies of Transverse Aeolian Ridges in ExoMars 2020 Rover Landing Site

Bhardwaj, A., Sam, L., Martín Torres, F. J., Zorzano, M. P. 2019. Distribution and Morphologies of Transverse Aeolian Ridges in ExoMars 2020 Rover Landing Site. Remote Sensing 11, 8 DOI: 10.3390/rs11080912

Aeolian processes are believed to play a major role in the landscape evolution of Mars. Investigations on Martian aeolian landforms such as ripples, transverse aeolian ridges (TARs), and dunes, and aeolian sediment flux measurements are important to enhance our understanding of past and present wind regimes, the ongoing dust cycle, landscape evolution, and geochemistry. These aeolian bedforms are often comprised of loose sand and sharply undulating topography and thus pose a threat to mobility and maneuvers of Mars rovers. Here we present a first-hand account of the distribution, morphologies, and morphometrics of TARs in Oxia Planum, the recently selected ExoMars 2020 Rover landing site. The gridded mapping was performed for contiguous stretches of TARs within all the landing ellipses using 57 sub-meter high resolution imaging science experiment (HiRISE) scenes. We also provide the morphological descriptions for all types of TARs present within the landing ellipses. We use HiRISE digital terrain models (DTMs) along with the images to derive morphometric information for TARs in Oxia Planum. In general, the average areal TAR coverage was found to be 5.4% (+/- 4.9% standard deviation), increasing from west to east within the landing ellipses. We report the average TAR morphometrics in the form of crest-ridge width (131.1 +/- 106.2 m), down-wind TAR length (17.6 +/- 10.1 m), wavelength (37.3 +/- 11.6 m), plan view aspect ratio (7.1 +/- 2.3), inter-bedform spacing (2.1 +/- 1.1), slope (10.6 degrees +/- 6.1 degrees), predominant orientations (NE-SW and E-W), and height (1.2 +/- 0.8 m). While simple TARs are predominant, we report other TAR morphologies such as forked TAR, wavy TAR with associated smaller secondary ripples, barchan-like TAR, networked TAR, and mini-TARs from the region. Our results can help in planning the rover traverses in terms of both safe passage and scientific returns favoring aeolian research, particularly improving our understanding of TARs.

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