Based on topographic, morphologic, and stratigraphic evidence, we propose that ancient water-laid sediment is the dominant component of deposits within Hellas Planitia, Mars. Multiple-layered sediment is manifested by alternating benches and scarps visible in Mars orbiting camera narrow-angle (MOC NA) images. Viking Orbiter camera and MOC NA images were used to map contacts and stratigraphically order the different materials units within Hellas. Mars orbiting laser altimeter (MOLA) data reveal that the contacts of these sedimentary units, as well as a number of scarps or other abrupt changes in landscape texture, trace contours of constant elevation for thousands of km, and in one case all around the basin. Channels, consensually interpreted to be cut by water, lead into the basin. MOLA results indicate that the area encompassed by greater Hellas' highest closed contour is nearly one-fifth that of the entire northern plains, making the Hellas "drainage" area much larger than previously reported. If lakes formed under climatic conditions similar to the modern Martian climate, they would develop thick ice carapaces, then the lakes would eventually sublimate away. Two units within Hellas exhibit a reticulate or honeycomb pattern, which we speculate are impressions made by lake-lowered ice blocks grounding into initially soft mud.
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Hellas as a possible site of ancient ice-covered lakes on Mars