Journal article Open Access

Three-dimensional simulations of the southern polar giant impact hypothesis for the origin of the Martian dichotomy: Southern Impact for Martian Dichotomy

Leone, Giovanni; Tackley, Paul J.; Gerya, Taras V.; May, Dave A.; Zhu, Guizhi

We demonstrate via numerical simulations that the impact of a ~ lunar-sized body with Mars is capable of creating a hemispherical magma ocean that upon cooling and solidification resulted in the formation of the southern highlands and thus the Martian dichotomy. The giant impact may have contributed a significant amount of iron to the Martian core and generated a deep thermal anomaly that led to the onset and development of the volcanism in the southern highlands. Our model predicts several mantle plumes converging to the South Pole from the equatorial regions as well as new plumes forming in the equatorial region and also an absence of significant large-scale volcanism in the northern lowlands. The core heat flux evolution obtained from our numerical models is consistent with the decline of the magnetic field. We argue that such a scenario is more consistent with a range of observations than a northern giant impact (excavating the Borealis basin) for the formation of the Martian dichotomy.
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