Using the Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity, we have compiled one of the first field geologic maps on Mars while traversing the Noachian terrain along the rim of the 22 km diameter Endeavour Crater (Latitude -2°16′33″, Longitude -5°10′51″). In situ mapping of the petrographic, elemental, structural, and stratigraphic characteristics of outcrops and rocks distinguishes four mappable bedrock lithologic units. Three of these rock units predate the surrounding Burns formation sulfate-rich sandstones and one, the Matijevic Formation, represents conditions on early Mars predating the formation of Endeavour Crater. The stratigraphy assembled from these observations includes several geologic unconformities. The differences in lithologic units across these unconformities record changes in the character and intensity of the Martian aqueous environment over geologic time. Water circulated through fractures in the oldest rocks over periods long enough that texturally and elementally significant alteration occurred in fracture walls. These oldest pre-Endeavour rocks and their network of mineralized and altered fractures were preserved by burial beneath impact ejecta and were subsequently exhumed and exposed. The alteration along joints in the oldest rocks and the mineralized veins and concentrations of trace metals in overlying lithologic units is direct evidence that copious volumes of mineralized and/or hydrothermal fluids circulated through the early Martian crust. The wide range in intensity of structural and chemical modification from outcrop to outcrop along the crater rim shows that the ejecta of large (>8 km in diameter) impact craters is complex. These results imply that geologic complexity is to be anticipated in other areas of Mars where cratering has been a fundamental process in the local and regional geology and mineralogy.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Geochemistry and Petrology
- Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)
- Space and Planetary Science