Abstract

We investigated the equatorial layered deposits (ELDs) of Arabia Terra, Mars, in Firsoff crater and on the adjacent plateau. We produced a detailed geological map that included a survey of the relative stratigraphic relations and crater count dating. We reconstructed the geometry of the layered deposits and inferred some compositional constraints. ELDs drape and onlap the plateau materials of late Noachian age, while they are unconformably covered by early and middle Amazonian units. ELDs show the presence of polyhydrated sulfates. The bulge morphology of the Firsoff crater ELDs appears to be largely depositional. The ELDs on the plateau display a sheet-drape geometry. ELDs show different characteristics between the crater and the plateau occurrences. In the crater they consist of mounds made of breccia sometimes displaying an apical pit laterally grading into a light-toned layered unit disrupted in a meter-scale polygonal pattern. These units are commonly associated with fissure ridges suggestive of subsurface sources. We interpret the ELDs inside the craters as spring deposits, originated by fluid upwelling through the pathways likely provided by the fractures related to the crater formations, and debouching at the surface through the fissure ridges and the mounds, leading to evaporite precipitation. On the plateau, ELDs consist of rare mounds, flat-lying deposits, and cross-bedded dune fields. We interpret these mounds as possible smaller spring deposits, the flat-lying deposits as playa deposits, and the cross-bedded dune fields as aeolian deposits. Groundwater fluctuations appear to be the major factor controlling ELD deposition.

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