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An astrobiological perspective on Meridiani Planum

Knoll, Andrew H. and Carr, Michael and Clark, Benton and Des Marais, David J. and Farmer, Jack D. and Fischer, Woodward W. and Grotzinger, John P. and McLennan, Scott M. and Malin, Michael and Schröder, Christian and Squyres, Steven and Tosca, Nicholas J. and Wdowiak, Thomas (2005) An astrobiological perspective on Meridiani Planum. Earth and Planetary Science Letters, 240 (1). pp. 179-189. ISSN 0012-821X. http://resolver.caltech.edu/CaltechAUTHORS:20130510-111203809

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Abstract

Sedimentary rocks exposed in the Meridiani Planum region of Mars record aqueous and eolian deposition in ancient dune and interdune playa-like environments that were arid, acidic, and oxidizing. On Earth, microbial populations have repeatedly adapted to low pH and both episodic and chronic water limitation, suggesting that, to a first approximation, the Meridiani plain may have been habitable during at least part of the interval when deposition and early diagenesis took place. On the other hand, the environmental conditions inferred for Meridiani deposition would have posed a challenge for prebiotic chemical reactions thought to have played a role in the origin of life on Earth. Orbital observations suggest that the combination of sulfate minerals and hematite found in Meridiani rocks may be unusual on the martian surface; however, there is reason to believe that acidity, aridity, and oxidizing conditions were broadly distributed on ancient Mars. When these conditions were established and how much environmental heterogeneity existed on early Mars remain to be determined. Because sulfates and iron oxides can preserve detailed geochemical records of environmental history as well as chemical, textural and microfossil signatures of biological activity, Meridiani Planum is an attractive candidate for Mars sample return.


Item Type:Article
Related URLs:
URLURL TypeDescription
http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.epsl.2005.09.045DOIUNSPECIFIED
http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0012821X05006394PublisherUNSPECIFIED
Additional Information:© 2005 Elsevier B.V. Accepted 22 September 2005; Available online 2 November 2005. Accepted 22 September 2005; Available online 2 November 2005; Editor: A.N. Halliday. This is a contribution to the Mars MER mission. We thank NASA, its international partners, and the many scientists and engineers whose collective efforts resulted in the new data that made these astrobiological ruminations possible. Ken Nealson and an anonymous reviewer provided helpful criticisms on an earlier draft.
Subject Keywords:Mars; Meridiani Planum; Astrobiology; Environmental history; Microbiology
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20130510-111203809
Persistent URL:http://resolver.caltech.edu/CaltechAUTHORS:20130510-111203809
Official Citation:Andrew H. Knoll, Michael Carr, Benton Clark, David J. Des Marais, Jack D. Farmer, Woodward W. Fischer, John P. Grotzinger, Scott M. McLennan, Michael Malin, Christian Schröder, Steven Squyres, Nicholas J. Tosca, Thomas Wdowiak, An astrobiological perspective on Meridiani Planum, Earth and Planetary Science Letters, Volume 240, Issue 1, 30 November 2005, Pages 179-189, ISSN 0012-821X, 10.1016/j.epsl.2005.09.045.
Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:38424
Collection:CaltechAUTHORS
Deposited By: Jason Perez
Deposited On:10 May 2013 23:00
Last Modified:10 May 2013 23:00

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