Relative dating using cratering distribution

The planet’s various geological units are distinguished and characterized on the basis of their morphologic, topographic, and spectral properties. Data from the Mars Global Surveyor (MGS) spacecraft provide rich insight into martian stratigraphic relationships and the timing of major geological events. Their relative ages are determined through examination of their crosscutting and superpositional relationships and the number of superposed impact craters. Many specific stratigraphic issues have been addressed and new questions have arisen, notably regarding the presence, timing, and extent of liquid water on the surface.

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Surface histories tell us how these bodies evolved through time and provide information on the probable causes for observed differences.

To establish a surface history, it is necessary to determine the sequence of various geologic events and, if possible, their duration.

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The absolute ages of surface units will remain necessarily uncertain until samples from known surface locations have been dated in situ and/or on Earth. Volcanic materials of the Elysium and Tharsis Montes volcanic regions are Amazonian in age.