October 14, 2014

Mineralogical composition, structure, morphology, and geological history of Aram Chaos crater fill on Mars derived from OMEGA Mars Express data

Masse et Al.
Journal of Geophysical Research, Volume 113, Issue E12, CiteID E12006

Summary: Aram Chaos is a crater 280 km in diameter centered at 2.5°N, 338.5°E. It is filled by chaotic terrains overlain by a dome-shaped, layered 900 m thick formation displaying spectral signatures of ferric oxides on Thermal Emission Spectrometer (TES) and Observatoire pour la Minéralogie, L'Eau, les Glaces et L'Activité (OMEGA) medium spatial resolution data. We describe in detail the mineralogical composition, structure, and morphology of this crater fill using high-resolution data (OMEGA, Mars Orbiter Laser Altimeter, Mars Orbiter Camera, TES, Thermal Emission Imaging System, and High-Resolution Imaging Science Experiment). We infer the following formation scenario: the crater was first filled by a geological formation, the composition of which remains unclear because it is covered by dust. Widespread fracturing of this formation led to the development of chaotic terrains. Later, a second layered formation, presently dome shaped, was emplaced unconformably on the chaotic terrains. This younger unit is composed of a bright, poorly consolidated material that contains both monohydrated sulfates and ferric oxides according to OMEGA data. The surface of this formation is partially covered by dust and displays landforms indicating that the bright material has been mobilized by wind during or after its deposition. After its emplacement, this formation has been grooved down to various depths by large eolian erosion corridors. In these corridors, eolian removal of the bright material with a sulfate-rich matrix has left debris fans, sand sheets, and dunes, which display some of the strongest spectral signatures of ferric oxides on Mars. Similar residual deposits enriched in ferric oxides, overlying a layered formation containing both ferric oxides and sulfates, have been observed by the Opportunity rover in Meridiani Planum, suggesting a common formation process.