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Evidence for a Diagenetic Origin of Vera Rubin Ridge, Gale Crater, Mars: Summary and Synthesis of Curiosity's Exploration Campaign

Fraeman, A. A. and Edgar, L. A. and Rampe, E. B. and Thompson, L. M. and Frydenvang, J. and Fedo, C. M. and Catalano, J. G. and Dietrich, W. E. and Gabriel, T. S. J. and Vasavada, A. R. and Grotzinger, J. P. and L'Haridon, J. and Mangold, N. and Sun, V. Z. and House, C. H. and Bryk, A. B. and Hardgrove, C. and Czarnecki, S. and Stack, K. M. and Morris, R. V. and Arvidson, R. E. and Banham, S. G. and Bennett, K. A. and Bridges, J. C. and Edwards, C. S. and Fischer, W. W. and Fox, V. K. and Gupta, S. and Horgan, B. H. N. and Jacob, S. R. and Johnson, J. R. and Johnson, S. S. and Rubin, D. M. and Salvatore, M. R. and Schwenzer, S. P. and Siebach, K. L. and Stein, N. T. and Turner, S. M. R. and Wellington, D. F. and Wiens, R. C. and Williams, A. J. and David, G. and Wong, G. M. (2020) Evidence for a Diagenetic Origin of Vera Rubin Ridge, Gale Crater, Mars: Summary and Synthesis of Curiosity's Exploration Campaign. Journal of Geophysical Research. Planets, 125 (12). Art. No. e2020JE006527. ISSN 2169-9097. doi:10.1029/2020je006527.

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This paper provides an overview of the Curiosity rover's exploration at Vera Rubin ridge (VRR) and summarizes the science results. VRR is a distinct geomorphic feature on lower Aeolis Mons (informally known as Mount Sharp) that was identified in orbital data based on its distinct texture, topographic expression, and association with a hematite spectral signature. Curiosity conducted extensive remote sensing observations, acquired data on dozens of contact science targets, and drilled three outcrop samples from the ridge, as well as one outcrop sample immediately below the ridge. Our observations indicate that strata composing VRR were deposited in a predominantly lacustrine setting and are part of the Murray formation. The rocks within the ridge are chemically in family with underlying Murray formation strata. Red hematite is dispersed throughout much of the VRR bedrock, and this is the source of the orbital spectral detection. Gray hematite is also present in isolated, gray‐colored patches concentrated toward the upper elevations of VRR, and these gray patches also contain small, dark Fe‐rich nodules. We propose that VRR formed when diagenetic event(s) preferentially hardened rocks, which were subsequently eroded into a ridge by wind. Diagenesis also led to enhanced crystallization and/or cementation that deepened the ferric‐related spectral absorptions on the ridge, which helped make them readily distinguishable from orbit. Results add to existing evidence of protracted aqueous environments at Gale crater and give new insight into how diagenesis shaped Mars' rock record.

Item Type:Article
Related URLs:
URLURL TypeDescription
http://pds.nasa.govRelated ItemNASA Planetary Data System ItemCuriosity Analyst's Notebook
Fraeman, A. A.0000-0003-4017-5158
Edgar, L. A.0000-0001-7512-7813
Rampe, E. B.0000-0002-6999-0028
Thompson, L. M.0000-0002-5444-952X
Frydenvang, J.0000-0001-9294-1227
Fedo, C. M.0000-0002-2626-1132
Catalano, J. G.0000-0001-9311-977X
Gabriel, T. S. J.0000-0002-9767-4153
Vasavada, A. R.0000-0003-2665-286X
Grotzinger, J. P.0000-0001-9324-1257
L'Haridon, J.0000-0002-9323-1603
Mangold, N.0000-0002-0022-0631
Sun, V. Z.0000-0003-1480-7369
House, C. H.0000-0002-4926-4985
Hardgrove, C.0000-0002-8556-6630
Czarnecki, S.0000-0002-4300-4066
Stack, K. M.0000-0003-3444-6695
Morris, R. V.0000-0003-1413-4002
Arvidson, R. E.0000-0002-2854-0362
Banham, S. G.0000-0003-1206-1639
Bennett, K. A.0000-0001-8105-7129
Bridges, J. C.0000-0002-9579-5779
Edwards, C. S.0000-0002-8096-9633
Fischer, W. W.0000-0002-8836-3054
Fox, V. K.0000-0002-0972-1192
Horgan, B. H. N.0000-0001-6314-9724
Jacob, S. R.0000-0001-9950-1486
Johnson, J. R.0000-0002-5586-4901
Rubin, D. M.0000-0003-1169-1452
Salvatore, M. R.0000-0002-1551-8342
Schwenzer, S. P.0000-0002-9608-0759
Siebach, K. L.0000-0002-6628-6297
Stein, N. T.0000-0003-3385-9957
Turner, S. M. R.0000-0001-9980-3804
Wellington, D. F.0000-0002-2130-0075
Wiens, R. C.0000-0002-3409-7344
Williams, A. J.0000-0001-6299-0845
David, G.0000-0002-2719-1586
Wong, G. M.0000-0003-0136-6373
Additional Information:© 2020 The Authors. This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. Issue Online: 23 December 2020; Version of Record online: 23 December 2020; Accepted manuscript online: 27 July 2020; Manuscript accepted: 20 July 2020; Manuscript revised: 16 July 2020; Manuscript received: 13 May 2020. We acknowledge the hundreds of members of Curiosity's science and engineering team, without each of whom it would have not been possible to collect this rich in situ data set. We thank Deane Rogers and Sally Potter‐McIntyre for providing thoughtful comments that improved the clarity of this manuscript. We would like to thank Scott McLennan, Dawn Sumner, and Allan Treiman for serving as guest Editors for this special issue. We would also like to thank the JGR‐Planets Editors and staff for their support and patience, especially Laurent Montessi, Tanya Dzekon, and Steven Hauck. A. A. F. thanks E. Lakdawalla for improving the plain language summary. A. A. F., C. M. F., C. H. H., C. H., K. M. S., R. E. A., C. S. E., B. H. N. H., J. R. J., and M. R. S. acknowledge funding through the MSL Participating Scientist Program. J. G. C. acknowledges funding the NASA Exobiology Program. S. G. acknowledges funding from the UK Space Agency (UKSA) Grants ST/N000579/1 and ST/S001492/1, and J. B., S. P. S., and S. M. T. acknowledge funding by UKSA Grant ST/S001476/1. J. F. acknowledges funding by the Carlsberg Foundation. This research was carried out at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, under a contract with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration © 2020. All rights reserved. Data Availability Statement: All of the data collected by Curiosity during the Vera Rubin ridge campaign can be found on the Planetary Data System (PDS,, and most are easily accessible on the Curiosity Analyst's Notebook ( This review contains no new data, and the reader should refer to the data statements in the cited manuscripts.
Funding AgencyGrant Number
United Kingdom Space Agency (UKSA)ST/N000579/1
United Kingdom Space Agency (UKSA)ST/S001492/1
United Kingdom Space Agency (UKSA)ST/S001476/1
Carlsberg FoundationUNSPECIFIED
Subject Keywords:Mars; Diagenesis; Hematite; Lacustrine; Curiosity
Issue or Number:12
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20200819-072846989
Persistent URL:
Official Citation:Fraeman, A. A., Edgar, L. A., Rampe, E. B., Thompson, L. M., Frydenvang, J., Fedo, C. M., et al. (2020). Evidence for a diagenetic origin of Vera Rubin ridge, Gale crater, Mars: Summary and synthesis of Curiosity's exploration campaign. Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets, 125, e2020JE006527.
Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:105018
Deposited By: Tony Diaz
Deposited On:19 Aug 2020 15:59
Last Modified:16 Nov 2021 18:38

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