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Evidence for plunging river plume deposits in the Pahrump Hills member of the Murray formation, Gale crater, Mars

Stack, Kathryn M. and Grotzinger, John P. and Lamb, Michael P. and Gupta, Sanjeev and Rubin, David M. and Kah, Linda C. and Edgar, Lauren A. and Fey, Deirdra M. and Hurowitz, Joel A. and McBride, Marie and Rivera-Hernández, Frances and Sumner, Dawn Y. and Van Beek, Jason K. and Williams, Rebecca M. E. and Yingst, R. Aileen (2019) Evidence for plunging river plume deposits in the Pahrump Hills member of the Murray formation, Gale crater, Mars. Sedimentology, 66 (5). pp. 1768-1802. ISSN 0037-0746. doi:10.1111/sed.12558.

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Recent robotic missions to Mars have offered new insights into the extent, diversity and habitability of the Martian sedimentary rock record. Since the Curiosity rover landed in Gale crater in August 2012, the Mars Science Laboratory Science Team has explored the origins and habitability of ancient fluvial, deltaic, lacustrine and aeolian deposits preserved within the crater. This study describes the sedimentology of a ca 13 m thick succession named the Pahrump Hills member of the Murray formation, the first thick fine‐grained deposit discovered in situ on Mars. This work evaluates the depositional processes responsible for its formation and reconstructs its palaeoenvironmental setting. The Pahrump Hills succession can be sub‐divided into four distinct sedimentary facies: (i) thinly laminated mudstone; (ii) low‐angle cross‐stratified mudstone; (iii) cross‐stratified sandstone; and (iv) thickly laminated mudstone–sandstone. The very fine grain size of the mudstone facies and abundant millimetre‐scale and sub‐millimetre‐scale laminations exhibiting quasi‐uniform thickness throughout the Pahrump Hills succession are most consistent with lacustrine deposition. Low‐angle geometric discordances in the mudstone facies are interpreted as ‘scour and drape’ structures and suggest the action of currents, such as those associated with hyperpycnal river‐generated plumes plunging into a lake. Observation of an overall upward coarsening in grain size and thickening of laminae throughout the Pahrump Hills succession is consistent with deposition from basinward progradation of a fluvial‐deltaic system derived from the northern crater rim into the Gale crater lake. Palaeohydraulic modelling constrains the salinity of the ancient lake in Gale crater: assuming river sediment concentrations typical of floods on Earth, plunging river plumes and sedimentary structures like those observed at Pahrump Hills would have required lake densities near freshwater to form. The depositional model for the Pahrump Hills member presented here implies the presence of an ancient sustained, habitable freshwater lake in Gale crater for at least ca 10^3 to 10^7 Earth years.

Item Type:Article
Related URLs:
URLURL TypeDescription
Stack, Kathryn M.0000-0003-3444-6695
Grotzinger, John P.0000-0001-9324-1257
Lamb, Michael P.0000-0002-5701-0504
Kah, Linda C.0000-0001-7172-2033
Edgar, Lauren A.0000-0001-7512-7813
Hurowitz, Joel A.0000-0002-5857-8652
Sumner, Dawn Y.0000-0002-7343-2061
Van Beek, Jason K.0000-0002-6772-4914
Williams, Rebecca M. E.0000-0003-1571-6952
Yingst, R. Aileen0000-0002-0628-4265
Additional Information:© 2018 The Authors. Sedimentology © 2018 International Association of Sedimentologists. Issue Online: 20 July 2019; Version of Record online: 18 February 2019; Accepted manuscript online: 08 November 2018; Manuscript accepted: 01 November 2018; Manuscript received: 03 June 2018. Funding Information: Jet Propulsion Laboratory; UK Space Agency (UKSA). Grant Numbers: ST/J005169/1, ST/N000579/1.
Funding AgencyGrant Number
United Kingdom Space Agency (UKSA)ST/J005169/1
United Kingdom Space Agency (UKSA)ST/N000579/1
Subject Keywords:Curiosity rover; Gale crater; lacustrine; Mars; Mars Science Laboratory; sedimentology; stratigraphy
Issue or Number:5
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20181126-161053239
Persistent URL:
Official Citation:Stack, K. M., Grotzinger, J. P., Lamb, M. P., Gupta, S. , Rubin, D. M., Kah, L. C., Edgar, L. A., Fey, D. M., Hurowitz, J. A., McBride, M. , Rivera‐Hernández, F. , Sumner, D. Y., Van Beek, J. K., Williams, R. M. and Aileen Yingst, R. (2019), Evidence for plunging river plume deposits in the Pahrump Hills member of the Murray formation, Gale crater, Mars. Sedimentology, 66: 1768-1802. doi:10.1111/sed.12558
Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:91200
Deposited By: Tony Diaz
Deposited On:27 Nov 2018 17:40
Last Modified:16 Nov 2021 03:39

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