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The deposition and alteration history of the northeast Syrtis Major layered sulfates

Quinn, D. P. and Ehlmann, B. L. (2019) The deposition and alteration history of the northeast Syrtis Major layered sulfates. Journal of Geophysical Research. Planets, 124 (7). pp. 1743-1782. ISSN 2169-9097.

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Ancient stratigraphy on Isidis Basin's western margin records the history of water on early Mars. Noachian units are overlain by layered, basaltic composition sedimentary rocks that are enriched in polyhydrated sulfates and capped by more resistant units. The layered sulfates—uniquely exposed at northeast Syrtis Major—comprise a sedimentary sequence up to 600 m thick that has undergone a multistage history of deposition, alteration, and erosion. Siliciclastic sediments enriched in polyhydrated sulfates are bedded at meter scale and were deposited on slopes up to 10°, embaying and thinning against preexisting Noachian highlands around the Isidis Basin rim. The layered sulfates were modified by volume loss fracturing during diagenesis. Resultant fractures hosted channelized flow and jarosite mineral precipitation to form resistant ridges upon erosion. The structural form of the layered sulfates is consistent with packages of sediment fallen from either atmospheric or aqueous suspension; coupling with substantial diagenetic volume loss may favor deepwater basin sedimentation. After formation, the layered sulfates were capped by a “smooth capping unit” and then eroded to form paleovalleys. Hesperian Syrtis Major lavas were channelized by this paleotopography, capping it in some places and filling it in others. Later fluvial features and phyllosilicate‐bearing lacustrine deposits, sharing a regional base level of ∼−2,300 m, were superimposed on the sulfate‐lava stratigraphy. The layered sulfates suggest surface bodies of water and active groundwater upwelling during the Noachian‐Hesperian transition. The northeast Syrtis Major stratigraphy records at least four distinct phases of surface and subsurface aqueous activity spanning from late Noachian to early Amazonian time.

Item Type:Article
Related URLs:
URLURL TypeDescription multistrip elevation model of the NE Syrtis region, Mars and topographic maps of NE Syrtis, Mars map database for Syrtis Major, Mars Paper
Quinn, D. P.0000-0003-1895-3742
Ehlmann, B. L.0000-0002-2745-3240
Additional Information:© 2019 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. Received 13 JUN 2018; Accepted 9 JAN 2019; Accepted article online 10 APR 2019; Published online 10 JUL 2019. We would like to thank NASA for the Earth and Space Science Fellowship (NNX14AO61H, to D.P. Quinn) that funded this work, as well as a gift to Caltech by F. Stanback that supported early efforts in large 3‐D data set creation and visualization. We also thank Nicholas Mangold and Paul Niles for their thoughtful reviews of this manuscript. A supporting information Table S1 containing the highest‐quality layer orientation measurements is available with this publication. HiRISE elevation data sets created for this study are archived in the Planetary Data System, and the regional CTX elevation model is archived at CaltechData ( High‐resolution, projected versions of Figures 2 and 3 are archived at CaltechData (, along with a PostGIS database containing all vector data, including all measured bedding traces, layer orientation fit data, structural control points, and geologic map data (
Group:Astronomy Department
Funding AgencyGrant Number
NASA Earth and Space Science FellowshipNNX14AO61H
Subject Keywords:structural modeling; sulfate; diagenesis; sedimentary rocks; depositional mechanism; erosion
Issue or Number:7
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20190410-130235511
Persistent URL:
Official Citation:Quinn, D. P., & Ehlmann, B. L. (2019). The deposition and alteration history of the northeast Syrtis Major layered sulfates. Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets, 124, 1743–1782.
Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:94641
Deposited By: Tony Diaz
Deposited On:10 Apr 2019 20:40
Last Modified:20 Apr 2020 08:47

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