October 14, 2014

Investigation of water signatures at gully-exposed sites on Mars by hyperspectral image analysis

Chaojun et Al.
Planetary and Space Science, Volume 57, Issue 1, p. 93-104

Summary: High-resolution images from the Mars Obiter Camera (MOC) onboard the Mars Global Surveyor (MGS) show a variety of gully features on sloped surfaces of Mars. The mechanism of gully formation is still under debate, although a majority of studies tend to favor a mechanism related to liquid water flow based on geomorphology and fluid mechanics considerations. In this study, we examined four known gully sites using Visible and Infrared Mineralogical Mapping Spectrometer (OMEGA) imagery. In particular, we analyzed the absorption depths of the water-associated absorption bands and concluded that there are stronger water signatures at the gully-exposed sites than in the surrounding areas. This implies that the water signatures, most likely representing water ice, isolated water molecules, and/or hydroxyl molecules incorporated into minerals, are still present in the shallow unconsolidated soils. This study provides additional evidence that water was likely involved in the formation of the gully features and is still locally active on the Martian surface in the present time.