Past ♂ Mars ♂ Research

I have done a lot of research over the years but almost all has been planetary or solar system -based. This page has pretty much all formal research that I have done that I am no longer involved with.

Please note that you can contact me for any of the papers if you do not have access to them.

Past Post-Graduate Research: Potential Landing Sites || Secondary Craters || Chronology of Large (Martian) Craters and Basins

Past Graduate Research: Elliptical Crater Studies || Martian Volcanic Ages || Migration of the Tharsis Volcanic Complex on Mars || Arabia Terra (Mars) Formation Testing

Potential Mars Landing Sites


Fairén, A.G. et al. (2016)  The Argyre Region as a Prime Target for in situ Astrobiological Exploration of MarsAstrobiology, 16:2, p. 143-158.  doi: 10.1089/ast.2015.1396.


Stillman, D.E., Grimm, R.E., Robbins, S.J., Michaels, T.I., and B.L. Enke.  Hale Crater — Ancient Water Science, Contemporary Resource.  1st Landing Site/Exploration Zone Workshop for Human Missions to the Surface of Mars, 1, Abstract #1028.

Dohm, J.M., Robbins, S.J., and B.M. Hynek.  (2012)  Recent Geological and Hydrological Activity in Amazonis and Elysium Basins and the Link, Marte Vallis (AME):  Prime Target for Future Reconnaissance.  Lunar and Planet. Sci. Conf., 43, #1948.

Secondary Crater Studies of Mars


Brian Hynek - Advisor, Collaborator/Co-I

Secondary craters - craters that form from large blocks of ejecta launched from the formation of a primary crater (formed from an extra-planetary impactor) - are a substantial issue in planetary cratering processes. First brought up as a potential issue in the 1960s but dismissed by most of the planetary community after that, it has only been in the last few years (2005 onward) that the community in general has realized, "Oh yeah, that's right, they are a problem."

My global crater database is complete to such a small diameter that the issue of secondaries becomes fairly obvious from it, at least secondary craters that are very near their primary. And in some cases, fields of secondary craters very far from their primary have become apparent.

One of these cases is that I have observed (and cataloged) vast fields/clusters of craters that appear to be secondary, but from no obvious primary. After some work, many of these seem to emanate from the large "young" (around 3.3 billion years!) crater called "Lyot." From observing these in my catalog to paper submission to Geophysical Research Letters took just under 3 weeks, and it was accepted just over 2 months from the concept (concept to accepted paper in 2 months is very fast).

A related paper was one that I wrote and published later that year which did something very similar, except it examined the "nearby fields" surrounding several primary craters on Mars, examining their morphologies and morphometries (visual appearance and numerical properties, such as spatial distribution).

Three years later, Brian and I returned to the question and classified all of the craters in the Mars global crater database as primary or secondary. This first-of-its-kind study could finally get at answering the question of what actually IS the global population of secondary craters (at least ones larger than 1 km in diameter) as a function of location and diameter. The paper is currently in review (as of January 2014).

In a larger sense, this is something I will be pursuing in the future, especially on Mercury and the Moon, funding agencies willing.


Robbins, S.J., and B.M. Hynek. (2014)  The Secondary Crater Population of Mars. Earth & Planetary Science Letters, 400, p. 66-76. doi: 10.1016/j.epsl.2014.05.005.

Robbins, S.J.; and B.M. Hynek.  (2011).  Secondary Crater Fields from 24 Large Primary Craters on Mars: Insights into Nearby Secondary Crater ProductionJournal of Geophysical Research - Planets, 116, E10003.  doi: 10.1029/2011JE003820.

Robbins, S.J.; and B.M. Hynek.  (2011).  Distant Secondary Craters from Lyot Crater, Mars, and Implications for Ages of Planetary BodiesGeophysical Research Letters, 38, L05201.  doi: 10.1029/2010GL046450.


Robbins, S.J., and B.M. Hynek.  (2014)  The Population of Secondary Impact Craters on Mars PDF Icon.  LPSC, 45, #1666.

Robbins, S.J., and B.M. Hynek.  (2013)  The Population of Secondary Impact Craters on Mars PDF Icon.  Planetary Crater Consortium, 4, #1306.

Robbins, S.J.; and B.M. Hynek.  (2013).  The Population of Secondary Impact Craters on Mars PDF Icon.  LPSC 44, #2644. Click for Poster as JPG or PDF

Robbins, S.J.; and B.M. Hynek.  (2011).  Distant Secondary Craters from Lyot Crater, Mars, and Implications for Ages of Planetary Bodies PDF Icon.  LPSC 42, #1330.

Chronology of Large (Martian) Craters and Basins


Brian Hynek, William Bottke, and Robert Lillis - Collaborators

With my global crater database pretty much done, one of the most simple uses of it is to age-date features. I was interested in the chronology of the large craters and basins on the planet and wanted to know if they support the hypothesis of the Late-Heavy Bombardment, a period of time in the solar system's history that is thought to have produced a large spike of impacts on the Moon around 3.8 billion years ago. The idea is that if this happened on the Moon, then it should be evident on Mars, too.

My approach, unlike many previous ones (mostly by Herb Frey), was to use superposed craters on top of the rims of craters larger than 150 km in diameter to age-date them. So I mapped out the crater rims as well as the rims of the "obvious" basins - ones that still had some remnant of a visible rim. Five basins and 78 craters later (around 25 were too degraded to age-date), I had my results.

That culminated in the two early-2012 abstracts as well as a paper (finally published in 2013). The paper focuses on the ages and what the ages and remnant crater crustal magnetization (Bob Lillis) tell us about the magnetic dynamo. An ancillary result is to point out many issues with the current chronologies used for Mars and the inconsistencies they created in the ages assigned in this work.


Karimi, S., Dombard, A.J., Buczkowski, D., Robbins, S.J., Williams, R.M.  (2016)  Using the viscoelastic relaxation of large impact craters to study the thermal history of MarsIcarus, 272.  doi: 10.1016/j.icarus.2016.02.037.

Lillis, R.J., Robbins, S.J., Manga, M., Halekas, J.S., and H.V. Frey.  (2013)  The Detectability of Impact Demagnetization at Mars: Implications for the History of the DynamoJournal of Geophysical Research – Planets, 118.  doi: 10.1002/jgre.20105.

Robbins, S.J., Hynek, B.M., Lillis, R.J., and W.F. Bottke.  (2013). Large impact crater histories of Mars: The effect of different model crater age techniquesIcarus, 225, p. 173–184.  doi: 10.1016/j.icarus.2013.03.019.


Lillis, R., Stewart, S., Roberts, J., Bottke, W., Manga, M., Frey, H., Kuang, W., and S.J. Robbins.  (2014)  Early Mars Chronology: When Did the Martian Dynamo Really Die?  8th Int'l. Mars Conf., 8, #1348.

Lillis, R.J., Robbins, S.J., Manga, M., Halekas, J.S., and H. Frey.  (2013)  Time History of the Martian Dynamo from Crater Magnetic Field Analysis.  Amer. Geophys. Union, Abstract #GP41D-1158.

Lillis, R.J., Robbins, S.J., Manga, M., Halekas, J.S., and H.V. Frey.  (2013).  A New, Statistically Robust Timeline for the Martian Dynamo.  Lunar and Planet Sci. Conf., 44, #1435.

Robbins, S.J.; and B.M. Hynek.  (2012).  Impact History of Large Bollides at Mars: Implications for the Late-Heavy Bombardment and Isochron Uncertainties PDF Icon.  LPSC 43, #1649.

Robbins, S.J., and B.M. Hynek.  (2012).  Revising the Earliest Recorded Impact History of Mars and Implications for the Late Heavy Bombardment PDF Icon.  Early Solar System Impacts & Bombardment II, #4039.

Elliptical Crater Studies


Gareth Collins - Initiator || Robert Herrick - Initiator || Karl Mueller - Initiator

My global crater database contains detailed crater elliptical information. At some point I'm going to work further on categorizing it across Mars to see if there are any important and meaningful trends.

Meanwhile, Gareth Collins of the Imperial College in London wrote a paper discussing his refinement of models that predict how many elliptical craters should be present at a given diameter. The database offered him a ground-truth for Mars and so I was a co-author on that paper.

Robert Herrick of the University of Alaska in Fairbanks had completed counts of elliptical craters as a function of diameter on several outer solar system moons and he asked me to be a co-author on his paper on the subject for My Mars data. That paper was published in mid-2012.

And, Karl Mueller is interested in using crater deformation when a crater crosses a tectonic feature to understand the structure of the planet's interior (if you can deform a crater a lot, then you have a warmer and more prone-to-movement interior; and vice-versa). That paper was published in late-2014, approximately 6 years in the works.


Mueller, K., Vidal, A., Robbins, S.J., Golombek, M., and C. West. (2014)  Fault and Fold Growth in the Amenthes Uplift: Implications for Late Noachian Crustal Rheology and Heat Flow on MarsEarth & Planetary Science Letters, 408, p. 100-109.  doi: 10.1016/j.epsl.2014.09.04.

Herrick, R.R., Shenk, P.M., and S.J. Robbins. (2012) Surveys of Elliptical Crater Populations on the Saturnian Satellites, Mercury, and MarsIcarus, 220, pp. 297-304.  doi: 10.1016/j.icarus.2012.05.027.

Collins, G.S.; Davidson, T.; Elbeshausen, D.; Robbins, S.J.; and B.M. Hynek. (2011) The Size-Frequency Distribution of Elliptical Impact CratersEarth & Planetary Science Letters, 310:1-2, pp. 1-8.  doi: 10.1016/j.epsl.2011.07.023.


Collins, G.S.; Davison, T.; Elbeshausen, D.; Robbins, S. J.; and B.M. Hynek. (2010). The Size-Frequency Distribution of Elliptical Craters PDF Icon. EPSC 5, #EPSC2010-238.

The Volcanic History of Mars, As Told by the Visible Calderas of Nineteen Major Volcanoes


Brian Hynek - Advisor || Gaetano di Achille - Collaborator

I'm fairly proud of this li'l project as it was fairly completely my idea, originally (where "originally" means that, yes, others have done it before, but not this way and it wasn't my advisor's idea and I didn't get the idea from reading of someone else doing it). One reason why this is important to me at this stage is that I've been somewhat worried that, as I pursue a career in research, I would not be able to come up with new ideas of what to research on my own or new techniques to apply to old problems. That I came up with this alone seems to indicate that I may posses that capability.

Anyway, the basic idea was to use the workflow that I had developed with my crater work to identify craters within the volcanic calderae of Mars' major volcanoes and use them to date the last visible eruptions. I used the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter's ConteXT (CTX) camera data for this work, which lead me to learn how to use ISIS software to process and mosaic the images together.

The entire process once I actually got going was about 2.5 months from start to finish, though this was spread over 5 months due to other work and deadlines. Another goal of this project was to help me get more experience with geologic mapping - required because the calderae were not always clear where one started and another began. In truth, to speed things up, my advisor's post-doc (Gaetano) did do a significant portion of the mapping, though I had to "sign off" on everything before he sent me the maps to use.

This turned into an LPSC abstract and we wrote a paper that was accepted November 2010.


Robbins, S.J.; Di Achille, G; and B.M. Hynek.  (2011).  The Volcanic History of Mars:  High-Resolution Crater-Based Studies of the Calderas of Twenty VolcanoesIcarus, 211, pp. 1179-1203.  doi: 10.1016/j.icarus.2010.11.012.


Robbins, S.J.; Di Achille, G.; and B.M. Hynek.  (2010).  Dating the Most Recent Episodes of Volcanic Activity from Mars' Main Volcanic Calderas PDF Icon. 1st Planetary Crater Consortium, #1010.

Robbins, S.J.; Di Achille, G.; and B.M. Hynek.  (2010).  Dating the Most Recent Episodes of Volcanic Activity from Mars' Main Volcanic Calderae PDF Icon. LPSC XLI, #2252. Click for the Poster.

Geologic and Crater Evidence for the Migration of the Tharsis Mantle Plume


Brian Hynek - Advisor & Primary Author || Ondrej Šrámek and Shijie Zhong - Collaborators

I contacted Shijie shortly after LPSC 2010 and my volcano paper was written and asked if anything that I had done with volcano ages would help or hurt his models for migrating mantle plumes.

The answer was "not really," but instead we went to my global crater database. Relatively quickly - over the span of about 3 months, he, Brian, and his post-doc (I think?) and I put together a short paper for Nature-Geoscience. The paper discusses the geologic (Brian), crater (me), magnetic (Ondrej), and modeling (Ondrej) evidence for the idea (Shijie) behind the mantle plume that fed and created the vast Tharsis volcanic province migrating thousands of kilometers from the martian south pole towards the equator, where it is today.

Rejected from the first journal due to length issues and a misunderstanding on magnetic field data, we expanded and fixed parts of it and re-submitted the paper to Earth & Planetary Science Letters where it was published. My advisor prepared a 2011 LPSC abstract for the work (citation below).


Hynek, B.M.; Robbins, S.J.; Šmárek, O.; and S. Zhong.  Geological Evidence for a Migrating Tharsis PlumeEarth & Planetary Science Letters, 310, pp. 327-333.  doi: 10.1016/j.epsl.2011.08.020.


Hynek, B.M., Robbins, S.J.; Šrámek, O.; and S. Zhong. (2011). Geological Evidence for a Migrating Tharsis Plume on Early Mars PDF Icon. LPSC XLII, #1603.

New Clues from Old Craters About the History of Arabia Terra, Mars

2006-2008, 2012

Brian Hynek - Advisor || Kara Brugman - Undergraduate Researcher (2012)

This was something that Brian had money for before I was awarded my NESSF. Effectively creating a localized catalog of the depth and diameter properties of the craters over ~15% of the planet, covering Arabia Terra and the neighboring Southern Highlands. The purpose was to use the craters to test hypotheses for the formation and modification history of Arabia Terra (tested two main ones). The results were that neither was confirmed and the region is still very confusing, though I have now made my own hypothetical history of the region based on the data.

I used this to get my M.S. and two conference abstracts (two more from this directly, but I have them listed under my global crater database). I will also be writing this up as a paper to submit to Icarus or JGR ... at some point. For now, we have decided it would make a good project for our undergraduate researcher, Kara.


Robbins, S. J.; and B. M. Hynek. (2008). Testing Formation Theories of NW Arabia Terra, Mars: New Clues from Old Craters. LPSC XXXIX, pp. 2417. Click for the Poster.

Robbins, S.J.; Haber, R.; and B. M. Hynek.  (2008).  Depth/Diameter Ratios of 2.5+ km Craters in Arabia Terra, Mars, and Hints at Refining the Region's History PDF Icon.  11th Mars Crater Conference, #1108.