Shaler: in situ analysis of a fluvial sedimentary deposit on Mars

Sedimentology
By: , and 

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Abstract

This paper characterizes the detailed sedimentology of a fluvial sandbody on Mars for the first time, and interprets its depositional processes and palaeoenvironmental setting. Despite numerous orbital observations of fluvial landforms on the surface of Mars, ground-based characterization of the sedimentology of such fluvial deposits has not previously been possible. Results from the NASA Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity rover provide an opportunity to reconstruct at fine scale the sedimentary architecture and palaeomorphology of a fluvial environment on Mars. This work describes the grain size, texture, and sedimentary facies of the Shaler outcrop, reconstructs the bedding architecture, and analyses cross-stratification to determine palaeocurrents. On the basis of bedset geometry and inclination, grain-size distribution, and bedform migration direction, this study concludes that the Shaler outcrop likely records the accretion of a fluvial barform. The majority of the outcrop consists of large-scale trough cross-bedding of coarse sand and granules. Palaeocurrent analyses and bedform reconstruction indicate that the beds were deposited by bedforms that migrated towards the northeast, across the surface of a bar that migrated southeast. Stacked cosets of dune cross-bedding suggest aggradation of multiple bedforms, which provides evidence for short periods of sustained flow during Shaler deposition. However, local evidence for aeolian reworking and the presence of potential desiccation cracks within the outcrop suggests that fluvial deposition may have been intermittent. The uppermost strata at Shaler are distinct in terms of texture and chemistry, and are inferred to record deposition from a different sediment dispersal system with a contrasting provenance. The outcrop as a whole is a testament to the availability of liquid water on the surface of Mars in its early history.

Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Shaler: in situ analysis of a fluvial sedimentary deposit on Mars
Series title Sedimentology
DOI 10.1111/sed.12370
Volume 65
Issue 1
Year Published 2018
Language English
Publisher International Association of Sedimentologists
Contributing office(s) Astrogeology Science Center
Description 27 p.
First page 96
Last page 122
Other Geospatial Mars