Abstract

An important result of the Mars Exploration Rover's (MER) mission has been the images of sedimentary structures and diagenetic features in the Burns Formation at Meridiani Planum. Bedding, cross-bedding, ripple marks, mud cracks, displacive evaporite crystal molds, and hematite concretions are contained in these Martian strata. Together, these features are evidence of past saline groundwater and ephemeral shallow surface waters on Mars. Geochemical analyses of these Martian outcrops have established the presence of sulfates, iron oxides, and jarosite, which strongly suggests that these waters were also acidic. The same assemblage of sedimentary structures and diagenetic features is found in the salt-bearing terrestrial red sandstones and shales of the middle Permian (ca. 270 Ma) Nippewalla Group of Kansas, which were deposited in and around acid saline ephemeral lakes. These striking sedimentological and mineralogical similarities make these Permian red beds and evaporites the best-known terrestrial analog for the Martian sedimentary rocks at Meridiani Planum.

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