An insight into ancient aeolian processes and post-Noachian aqueous alteration in Gale crater, Mars, using ChemCam geochemical data from the Greenheugh capping unit

1,2Candice C. Bedford et al. (>10)
Journal of Geophysical Research (Planets)(in Press) Open Access Link to Article [https://doi.org/10.1029/2021JE007100]
1Lunar and Planetary Institute, Universities Space Research Association, Houston, Texas, USA
2Astromaterials Research and Exploration Science Division, NASA Johnson Space Center, Houston, Texas, USA
Published by arrangement with John Wiley & Sons

Aeolian processes have shaped and contributed to the geological record in Gale crater, Mars, long after the fluviolacustrine system existed ∼3 Ga ago. Understanding these aeolian deposits, particularly those which have been lithified and show evidence for aqueous alteration, can help to constrain the environment at their time of deposition and the role of liquid water later in Mars’ history. The NASA Curiosity rover investigated a prominent outcrop of aeolian sandstone within the Stimson formation at the Greenheugh pediment as part of its investigation of the Glen Torridon area. In this study, we use geochemical data from ChemCam to constrain the effects of aeolian sedimentary processes, sediment provenance, and diagenesis of the sandstone at the Greenheugh pediment, comparing the Greenheugh data to the results from previous Stimson localities situated 2.5 km north and >200 m lower in elevation. Our results, supported by mineralogical data from CheMin, show that the Stimson formation at the Greenheugh pediment was likely sourced from an olivine-rich unit that may be present farther up the slopes of Gale crater’s central mound. Our results also suggest that the Greenheugh pediment Stimson formation was cemented by surface water runoff such as that which may have formed Gediz Vallis. The lack of alteration features in the Stimson formation at the Greenheugh pediment relative to those of the Emerson and Naukluft plateaus suggests that groundwater was not as available at this locality compared to the others. However, all sites share diagenesis at the unconformity.

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