Amazonian, Hesperian, Noachian Epochs

The geologic history of Mars has been divided into three broad time periods, or Epochs. From oldest to youngest, these are Noachian, Hesperian, and Amazonian Epochs (named after places on Mars). These Epochs are defined by the number of meteorite impact craters on the ground surface; older surfaces show the scars of more impact craters. The actual timing of the Epochs is not known. The Noachian extends back in time to the beginnings of the planet, and ended sometime between 3.8 and 3.5 billion years ago (according to accepted models). Noachian age surfaces are scarred by many large impact craters. Next in time was the Hesperian period, a time of extensive lava plains. The Hesperian Epoch ended sometime between 3.55 and 1.8 billion years ago; the range here reflects different models of the rate of meteorite falls onto Mars. Finally, the Amazonian Epoch extends to the present day. Ground surfaces of Amazonian age have few meteorite impact craters, but otherwise are quite varied. The Amazonian Epoch has seen the formation of the huge volcano Olympus Mons, lava flows elsewhere on Mars, formation of the landslides in Valles Marineris (like these in Gangis Chasma), and formation of the broad plains and sand dunes near Mars' poles.

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