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Deposition and erosion of a Light-Toned Yardang-forming unit of Mt Sharp, Gale crater, Mars

Dromart, G. and Le Deit, L. and Rapin, W. and Gasnault, O. and Le Mouélic, S. and Quantin-Nataf, C. and Mangold, N. and Rubin, D. and Lasue, J. and Maurice, S. and Newsom, H. E. and Pinet, P. and Scuderi, L. and Wiens, R. C. (2021) Deposition and erosion of a Light-Toned Yardang-forming unit of Mt Sharp, Gale crater, Mars. Earth and Planetary Science Letters, 554 . Art. No. 116681. ISSN 0012-821X. doi:10.1016/j.epsl.2020.116681.

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Gale crater is a large impact crater with a ca 5 km thick sequence of stratified rocks in it, expressed today as a central eroded mound (i.e., Aeolis Mons informally named Mt. Sharp). A goal of the current Mars Science Laboratory mission in Gale crater is to investigate the processes that deposited, lithified, and eroded this fill. The Light-Toned Yardang Unit (LTYu) unit, the subject of the present research, is one of the geological units of Mt Sharp. Our specific purpose here is to refine and interpret the imaging documentation of the morphologic and stratal components of the LTYu, at large outcrop scale. In combination with established orbital images, we use the Remote Micro-Imager (RMI) of ChemCam, a remote sensing instrument currently operated onboard Curiosity rover, which provides several types of context imaging. RMI capabilities now include “Long Distance” acquisitions of targets several kilometers away. In these new acquisitions, substantial differences are visible in LTYu yardang attitudes from lowest to uppermost elevations allowing tentative subdivision of the LTYu into subunits. Bedding geometries in the lower LTYu are consistent with eolian dune foresets which collectively prograde towards an average N134° direction. Based on stratal architectures, the LTYu is viewed as an amalgamated stack of at least two, and possibly four, ancient erg systems bounded by large deflationary “supersurfaces”. Observations point to a multistory generation of yardangs interpreted to have been successively buried during the stratigraphic building of Mt Sharp. We conclude that the successive sequences of eolian deposition-erosion recorded by the LTYu have been generated by cyclic changes from semi-arid to arid conditions, coupled in climatic cycles, including wind regime change. The regional unconformity that tops the Lower mound formation of Mt Sharp, and the subsequent emplacement of the LTYu, collectively express a clear tendency toward sustained arid environments for this region of Mars around the Early – Late Hesperian transition. Given the large time scale involved (i.e., a few tens of million years as a minimum), we consider it likely that the local evidence for increased aridity in the Mt Sharp stratigraphy is a manifestation of climate change affecting the whole planet.

Item Type:Article
Related URLs:
URLURL TypeDescription
Le Deit, L.0000-0003-1361-5170
Rapin, W.0000-0003-4660-8006
Gasnault, O.0000-0002-6979-9012
Le Mouélic, S.0000-0001-5260-1367
Mangold, N.0000-0002-0022-0631
Rubin, D.0000-0003-1169-1452
Lasue, J.0000-0001-9082-4457
Maurice, S.0000-0001-5702-8002
Newsom, H. E.0000-0002-4358-8161
Pinet, P.0000-0002-1933-5631
Wiens, R. C.0000-0002-3409-7344
Additional Information:© 2020 Elsevier B.V. Received 2 June 2020, Revised 10 November 2020, Accepted 15 November 2020, Available online 1 December 2020. The authors gratefully acknowledge support from the NASA Mars Science Laboratory Mission and the efforts of the MSL engineering and science operations teams. This work was supported in France by the Centre National des Etudes Spatiales (CNES) and the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS). G. Dromart, L. Le Deit, C. Quantin-Nataf, N. Mangold, and D. Rubin thank Fondation des Treilles for support for a meeting during which they had the opportunity to discuss about eolian sedimentation on Mars. Gratitude is due to R. Anderson, L. Edgar, and K. Herkenhoff (USGS) for discussions that helped improve this work. Thanks to Drs. Kenneth Edgett (Malin Space Center) and Robert Sullivan (Cornell) for their very valuable feedback on an early version of the manuscript, and to anonymous reviewers for their constructive comments. CRediT authorship contribution statement: G.D. analyzed the image data, conceived and drafted the figures, conceived and wrote the manuscript. L.L. quantified the geometry of the LTYu basal bounding surface. W.R. projected the LD RMI mosaics as view sheds onto the DTMs. O.G. and SL carried out corrections of LD RMI mosaics. C. Q. calculated the lapse-time required for a surface to have a significant chance of having been impacted. N.M., D.R., J.L., S.M., H.N., P.P., L.S., R.W. contributed to the interpretation of the data and revisions of the manuscript. The authors declare the following financial interests/personal relationships which may be considered as potential competing interests.
Funding AgencyGrant Number
Centre National d’Études Spatiales (CNES)UNSPECIFIED
Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS)UNSPECIFIED
Subject Keywords:Mars climate; Gale crater; yardang; stratigraphy; Eolian; ChemCam
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20201209-151552802
Persistent URL:
Official Citation:G. Dromart, L. Le Deit, W. Rapin, O. Gasnault, S. Le Mouélic, C. Quantin-Nataf, N. Mangold, D. Rubin, J. Lasue, S. Maurice, H.E. Newsom, P. Pinet, L. Scuderi, R.C. Wiens, Deposition and erosion of a Light-Toned Yardang-forming unit of Mt Sharp, Gale crater, Mars, Earth and Planetary Science Letters, Volume 554, 2021, 116681, ISSN 0012-821X, (
Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:106989
Deposited By: Tony Diaz
Deposited On:09 Dec 2020 23:32
Last Modified:16 Nov 2021 18:58

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