Martian labyrinth

Adamas Labyrinthus is criss-crossed by troughs – but what created them is a mystery.

ESA / DLR / FU Berlin, CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO

This labyrinth-like system of troughs and plateaus was imaged by the European Space Agency's Mars Express on 21 June 2016.

It shows part of a region known as Adamas Labyrinthus, which is found in Utopia Planitia in the northern lowlands of Mars. Here, the randomly shaped blocks vary in size from five to 20 kilometres across and are separated by cross-cutting troughs with widths of up to two kilometres.

The pattern is similar to that observed in some offshore locations on Earth, supporting an idea that the scene here results from the deposition of fine-grained sediments in an ocean.

The formation of such polygons with surrounding troughs has been attributed to a number of varied processes, including collapse under gravity, the expulsion of fluid from the porous sediments as they are being compacted, low friction between the sediments resulting in mass wasting and local tectonic activity extending the blocks apart. The underlying topography may also play a role.

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