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Burial and Exhumation of Sedimentary Rocks Revealed by the Base Stimson Erosional Unconformity, Gale Crater, Mars

Watkins, Jessica A. and Grotzinger, John P. and Stein, Nathan T. and Banham, Steven G. and Gupta, Sanjeev and Rubin, David M. and Stack Morgan, Kathryn and Edgett, Kenneth S. and Frydenvang, Jens and Siebach, Kirsten L. and Lamb, Michael P. and Sumner, Dawn Y. and Lewis, Kevin W. (2022) Burial and Exhumation of Sedimentary Rocks Revealed by the Base Stimson Erosional Unconformity, Gale Crater, Mars. Journal of Geophysical Research. Planets, 127 (7). Art. No. e2022JE007293. ISSN 2169-9097. doi:10.1029/2022je007293.

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Sedimentary rocks record the ancient climate of Mars through changes between subaqueous and eolian depositional environments, recognized by their stratal geometries and suites of sedimentary structures. Orbiter- and rover-image-based geologic mapping show a dynamic evolution of the 5-km-thick sedimentary sequence exposed along the flanks of Aeolis Mons (informally, Mt. Sharp) in Gale crater, Mars, by deposition of subaqueous strata followed by exhumation via eolian erosion and then deposition of overlying, onlapping strata of inferred eolian origin. This interpretation suggests that a significant unconformity should occur at the base of the onlapping strata, thus predicting lateral variations in elevation along the contact between the underlying Mt. Sharp group and overlying Stimson formation. Curiosity rover and high-resolution orbital image data quantify paleotopographic variability associated with the contact; ∼140 m of net elevation change and a slope closely aligned with the modern topography is expressed along the regional contact. These results support the interpretation of an erosional unconformity between these strata and that it was likely formed as a result of eolian erosion within the crater, indicative of a transition from wet to dry climate and providing insight into the stratigraphic context, geologic history, and habitability within Gale crater.

Item Type:Article
Related URLs:
URLURL TypeDescription ItemCuriosity (MSL) Analyst’s Notebook ItemPDS Geosciences Node Mars Orbital Data Explorer InCaltech News
Watkins, Jessica A.0000-0002-4706-8569
Grotzinger, John P.0000-0001-9324-1257
Stein, Nathan T.0000-0003-2199-6751
Banham, Steven G.0000-0003-1206-1639
Rubin, David M.0000-0003-1169-1452
Stack Morgan, Kathryn0000-0003-3444-6695
Edgett, Kenneth S.0000-0001-7197-5751
Frydenvang, Jens0000-0001-9294-1227
Siebach, Kirsten L.0000-0002-6628-6297
Lamb, Michael P.0000-0002-5701-0504
Sumner, Dawn Y.0000-0002-7343-2061
Lewis, Kevin W.0000-0003-3412-803X
Additional Information:© 2022. The Authors. This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs License, which permits use and distribution in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited, the use is non-commercial and no modifications or adaptations are made. Issue Online: 28 June 2022; Version of Record online: 28 June 2022; Accepted manuscript online: 08 June 2022; Manuscript accepted: 22 April 2022; Manuscript revised: 21 April 2022; Manuscript received: 12 March 2022. We thank the scientists and engineers of the Mars Science Laboratory mission and Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter teams for their work in obtaining the observations analyzed in this study and for their contributions that have made the Curiosity mission a success. All raw data products supporting the conclusions of this work can be obtained from the NASA Planetary Data System (PDS). All MSL Mastcam images (Malin, 2013) can be download from the Curiosity (MSL) Analyst's Notebook (, where they are searchable by ID and Sol listed in the figure captions. Funding was provided by NASA. Data Availability Statement: All HiRISE images (McEwen, 2007, 2009) can be downloaded from the PDS Geosciences Node Mars Orbital Data Explorer ( Archived data are accessible here:, see Watkins et al. (2022).
Group:Division of Geological and Planetary Sciences
Subject Keywords:Mars; Sedimentary; Unconformity; Erosion; Gale
Issue or Number:7
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20220608-849720000
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Official Citation:Watkins, J. A., Grotzinger, J. P., Stein, N. T., Banham, S. G., Gupta, S., Rubin, D. M., et al. (2022). Burial and exhumation of sedimentary rocks revealed by the base Stimson erosional unconformity, Gale crater, Mars. Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets, 127, e2022JE007293.
Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:115095
Deposited By: George Porter
Deposited On:08 Jun 2022 21:45
Last Modified:28 Feb 2023 22:28

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