An interval of high salinity in ancient Gale crater lake on Mars

W. Rapin, B. L. Ehlmann, G. Dromart, J. Schieber, N. H. Thomas, W. W. Fischer, V. K. Fox, N. T. Stein, M. Nachon, B. C. Clark, L. C. Kah, L. Thompson, H. A. Meyer, T. S.J. Gabriel, C. Hardgrove, N. Mangold, F. Rivera-Hernandez, R. C. Wiens, A. R. Vasavada

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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Abstract

Precipitated minerals, including salts, are primary tracers of atmospheric conditions and water chemistry in lake basins. Ongoing in situ exploration by the Curiosity rover of Hesperian (around 3.3–3.7 Gyr old) sedimentary rocks within Gale crater on Mars has revealed clay-bearing fluvio-lacustrine deposits with sporadic occurrences of sulfate minerals, primarily as late-stage diagenetic veins and concretions. Here we report bulk enrichments, disseminated in the bedrock, of 30–50 wt% calcium sulfate intermittently over about 150 m of stratigraphy, and of 26–36 wt% hydrated magnesium sulfate within a thinner section of strata. We use geochemical analysis, primarily from the ChemCam laser-induced breakdown spectrometer, combined with results from other rover instruments, to characterize the enrichments and their lithology. The deposits are consistent with early diagenetic, pre-compaction salt precipitation from brines concentrated by evaporation, including magnesium sulfate-rich brines from extreme evaporative concentration. This saline interval represents a substantial hydrological perturbation of the lake basin, which may reflect variations in Mars’ obliquity and orbital parameters. Our findings support stepwise changes in Martian climate during the Hesperian, leading to more arid and sulfate-dominated environments as previously inferred from orbital observations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)889-895
Number of pages7
JournalNature Geoscience
Volume12
Issue number11
DOIs
StatePublished - Nov 1 2019

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crater lake
Mars
sulfate
salinity
magnesium
salt
concretion
obliquity
mineral
thin section
water chemistry
crater
lacustrine deposit
sedimentary rock
compaction
bedrock
lithology
stratigraphy
spectrometer
evaporation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Earth and Planetary Sciences(all)

Cite this

Rapin, W., Ehlmann, B. L., Dromart, G., Schieber, J., Thomas, N. H., Fischer, W. W., ... Vasavada, A. R. (2019). An interval of high salinity in ancient Gale crater lake on Mars. Nature Geoscience, 12(11), 889-895. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41561-019-0458-8

An interval of high salinity in ancient Gale crater lake on Mars. / Rapin, W.; Ehlmann, B. L.; Dromart, G.; Schieber, J.; Thomas, N. H.; Fischer, W. W.; Fox, V. K.; Stein, N. T.; Nachon, M.; Clark, B. C.; Kah, L. C.; Thompson, L.; Meyer, H. A.; Gabriel, T. S.J.; Hardgrove, C.; Mangold, N.; Rivera-Hernandez, F.; Wiens, R. C.; Vasavada, A. R.

In: Nature Geoscience, Vol. 12, No. 11, 01.11.2019, p. 889-895.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Rapin, W, Ehlmann, BL, Dromart, G, Schieber, J, Thomas, NH, Fischer, WW, Fox, VK, Stein, NT, Nachon, M, Clark, BC, Kah, LC, Thompson, L, Meyer, HA, Gabriel, TSJ, Hardgrove, C, Mangold, N, Rivera-Hernandez, F, Wiens, RC & Vasavada, AR 2019, 'An interval of high salinity in ancient Gale crater lake on Mars', Nature Geoscience, vol. 12, no. 11, pp. 889-895. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41561-019-0458-8
Rapin W, Ehlmann BL, Dromart G, Schieber J, Thomas NH, Fischer WW et al. An interval of high salinity in ancient Gale crater lake on Mars. Nature Geoscience. 2019 Nov 1;12(11):889-895. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41561-019-0458-8
Rapin, W. ; Ehlmann, B. L. ; Dromart, G. ; Schieber, J. ; Thomas, N. H. ; Fischer, W. W. ; Fox, V. K. ; Stein, N. T. ; Nachon, M. ; Clark, B. C. ; Kah, L. C. ; Thompson, L. ; Meyer, H. A. ; Gabriel, T. S.J. ; Hardgrove, C. ; Mangold, N. ; Rivera-Hernandez, F. ; Wiens, R. C. ; Vasavada, A. R. / An interval of high salinity in ancient Gale crater lake on Mars. In: Nature Geoscience. 2019 ; Vol. 12, No. 11. pp. 889-895.
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