The presence of abundant phyllosilicate minerals in Noachian (>3.7 Ga) rocks on Mars has been taken as evidence that liquid water was stable at or near the surface early in martian history. This study investigates some of these clay-rich strata exposed in crater rim and inverted terrain settings in the Mawrth Vallis region of Mars. In Muara crater the 200-m-thick, clay-rich Mawrth Vallis Group (MVG) is subdivided into five informal units numbered 1 (base) to 5 (top). Unit 1 consists of interbedded sedimentary and volcanic or volcaniclastic units showing weak Fe/Mg-smectite alteration deposited in a range of subaerial depositional settings. Above a major unconformity eroded on Unit 1, the dark-toned sediments of Unit 2 and lower Unit 3 are inferred to represent mainly wind-blown sand. These are widely interlayered with and draped by thin layers of light-toned sediment representing fine suspended-load aeolian silt and clay. These sediments show extensive Fe/Mg-smectite alteration, probably reflecting subaerial weathering. Upper Unit 3 and units 4 and 5 are composed of well-layered, fine-grained sediment dominated by Al-phyllosilicates, kaolinite, and hydrated silica. Deposition occurred in a large lake or arm of a martian sea. In the inverted terrain 100 km to the NE, Unit 4 shows very young slope failures suggesting that the clay-rich sediments today retain a significant component of water ice. The MVG provides evidence for the presence of large, persistent standing bodies of water on early Mars as well as a complex association of flanking shoreline, alluvial, and aeolian systems. Some of the clays, especially the Fe/Mg smectites in upper units 1 and 2 appear to have formed through subaerial weathering whereas the aluminosilicates, kaolinite, and hydrated silica of units 3, 4, and 5 formed mainly through alteration of fine sediment in subaqueous environments.
Deposition of >3.7 Ga clay-rich strata of the Mawrth Vallis Group, Mars, in lacustrine, alluvial, and aeolian environments
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Donald R. Lowe, Janice L. Bishop, Damien Loizeau, James J. Wray, Ross A. Beyer; Deposition of >3.7 Ga clay-rich strata of the Mawrth Vallis Group, Mars, in lacustrine, alluvial, and aeolian environments. GSA Bulletin doi: https://doi.org/10.1130/B35185.1
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