A long history of running water recorded in clay sediments on Mars

A long history of running water recorded in clay sediments on Mars

A long history of running water recorded in clay sediments on Mars

Portion of HiRISE enhanced color image ESP_023383_1590 showing colored layered clay sediments in Ladon Valles that are partially covered by windblown darker brown material. The enlarged inset (yellow box) shows meter-thick layers of varying brightness and color. North is up. Credit: NASA/HiRISE/University of Arizona

A region of Mars may have been habitable several times until relatively late in Martian history, according to a new paper by Catherine Weitz, senior scientist at the Planetary Science Institute.

Some of the best-preserved landforms on Mars created by running water across its surface are found in the Margaritifer Terra region where deposits of clayey sediments have been identified. “The presence of clays indicates a favorable environment for life because clays form and remain stable under neutral pH conditions where water persists long term, minimizing evaporation to form other minerals like sulfates,” Weitz said.

“We found that the Ladon Basin region within Margaritifer Terra records a long history of water flow beginning relatively early in the history of Mars around 3.8 billion years ago and continuing is continued until 2.5 billion years ago, which is considered relatively recent,” said Weitz, leader. author of “Clay sediments derived from fluvial activity in and around the Ladon basin, Mars” published in the journal Icarus.

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

A long history of running water recorded in clay sediments on Mars

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

“Using orbital imagery, we identified clay sediments in northern Ladon Valles, southern Ladon Basin, and the southwestern highlands around Ladon Basin,” Weitz said. “Additionally, light-toned colored stratified sediments that display relatively shallow bedding dips and contain clays for 200 kilometers away are evidence that a lake was most likely present in Ladon Basin and northern Ladon. Valles. The low-energy lake setting and the presence of clays support an environment that would have been favorable for life at that time.”

Credit: Institute of Planetary Sciences

The clays originally formed in older mountainous terrain around the Ladon Basin, then water then eroded through these upland clay materials to produce the Ladon Valles Channel, then deposited sediments downstream in a lake in Ladon Basin and northern Ladon Valles. The most recent and youngest water flow in the highlands is along the southwestern Ladon basin where clays have been deposited in blocked valleys and small topographic basins of similar age but older. small scale compared to the deposit of the Eberswalde delta located in the south of the region of this study. . “Our results indicate that clayey sediments deposited by running water at Eberswalde were not unusual in more recent times, as we see many examples of similar young valleys that deposited clays in the area,” Weitz said. .

Footprints of a Martian Flood

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

Provided by the Institute of Planetary Sciences

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