Understanding the age and distribution of shallow ice on Mars is valuable for interpreting past and present climate conditions, and has implications on habitability and future in situ resource utilization. Many ice-related features, such as lobate debris aprons and concentric crater fill, have been studied using a range of remote sensing techniques. Here, I explore the distribution of expanded craters, a form of sublimation thermokarst where shallow, excess ice has been destabilized and sublimated following an impact event. This leads to the collapse of the overlying dry regolith to produce the appearance of diameter widening. The modern presence of these features suggests that excess ice has remained preserved in the terrain immediately surrounding the craters since the time of their formation in order to maintain the surface. High-resolution imagery is ideal for observing thermokarst features, and much of the work described here will utilize data from the Context Camera (CTX) and High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO). Expanded craters tend to be found in clusters that emanate radially from at least four primary craters in Arcadia Planitia, and are interpreted as secondary craters that formed nearly simultaneously with their primaries. Crater age dates of the primaries indicate that the expanded secondaries, as well as the ice layer into which they impacted, must be at least tens of millions of years old. Older double-layer ejecta craters in Arcadia Planitia commonly have expanded craters superposed on their ejecta - and they tend to be more expanded (with larger diameters) in the inner ejecta layer. This has implications on the formation mechanisms for craters with this unique ejecta morphology. Finally, I explore the distribution of expanded craters south of Arcadia Planitia and across the southern mid-latitudes, along with scalloped depressions (another form of sublimation thermokarst), in order to identify the modern excess ice boundary in this region and any longitudinal variations. This study identifies some potential low-latitude locations with patchy excess ice, possibly preserved during a past climate. Through these studies, I will infer regions that contain abundant ice today and consider the implications that this ice has on both the martian climate and future exploration.
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- Planetology;Geomorphology;Remote sensing