A long history of flowing water recorded in clayey sediments on Mars

A long history of flowing water recorded in clayey sediments on Mars

Part of HiRISE-enhanced color image ESP_023383_1590, showing colorful layered clay-bearing sediments in Ladon Valles, partially covered by darker brown windblown materials. Blowup insert (yellow box) shows meter-thick layers with variable brightness and color. North is up. Credit: NASA / HiRISE / University of Arizona

A region on Mars may have been habitable repeatedly until relatively late in Mars’ history, says a new paper from the Planetary Science Institute Senior Scientist Catherine Weitz.

Some of the most extensively preserved landforms on Mars created by running water on its surface are found in the Margaritifer Terra region, where deposits of clayey sediments have been identified. “The presence of clay indicates an environment conducive to life because clay is formed and remains stable under neutral pH conditions where water persists in the long term, minimizing evaporation to form other minerals such as sulfates,” Weitz said.

“We found that the Ladon Basin in Margaritifer Terra records a long history of flowing water, beginning relatively early in Mars’ history about 3.8 billion years ago and continuing until up to 2.5 billion years ago. , which is considered relatively recent, “said Weitz, manager. author of “Clay Sediments Derived from Fluvial Activity in and around Ladon Basin, Mars”, featured in the journal Icarus.

Data from NASA’s High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE), Context Camera (CTX) and Compact Reconnaissance Imaging Spectrometers for Mars (CRISM) aboard the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter spacecraft were used in the study.

A long history of flowing water recorded in clayey sediments on Mars

Left, HiRISE image superimposed on a HiRISE-derived digital terrain model in perspective (2X vertical exaggeration) of clay-bearing sediments in valleys along the southwestern highlands of the Ladon Basin. To the right, clay-bearing sediments show colorful stratification in this HiRISE-enhanced color image. Credit: NASA / HiRISE / University of Arizona

“Using orbital images, we identified clay-bearing sediments in the northern Ladon Valles, the southern Ladon Basin and the southwestern highlands around the Ladon Basin,” Weitz said. “In addition, colorful, bright, layered sediments that show relatively low sediments and contain clay across 200 kilometers are evidence that a lake was most likely present in the Ladon Basin and northern Ladon Valles. The low-energy lake environment and the presence of clay supports an environment that would have been favorable to life at that time. ”

Credit: Planetary Science Institute

The clay originally formed in older highland terrains around the Ladon Basin and then water eroded through these clayey highland materials to produce the Ladon Valles Canal and then deposited sediments downstream in a lake within the Ladon Basin and northern Ladon Valles. The most recent and youngest watercourse in the highlands is along the southwestern Ladon Basin, where clay was deposited in blocked valleys and small topographic basins of the same age but smaller scale compared to the Eberswalde Delta south of the region in this examination. . “Our results indicate that the clay deposits deposited by running water in the Eberswalde were not unusual in this recent time because we see many examples of similar young valleys depositing clay in the region,” Weitz said.

Footprints of a flood on Mars

More information:
Catherine M. Weitz et al., Clay sediments derived from fluvial activity in and around the Ladon Basin, Mars, Icarus (2022). DOI: 10.1016 / j.icarus.2022.115090

Provided by the Planetary Science Institute

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