Geological mapping of Mawrth Vallis, Mars, by PLANMAP

Wright, Jack; Balme, Matthew; Davis, Joel; Fawdon, Peter and Rothery, David (2020). Geological mapping of Mawrth Vallis, Mars, by PLANMAP. In: EPSC Abstracts, article no. EPSC2020-807.




Mawrth Vallis is generally considered to be the oldest of Mars’ outflow channels. It incises Noachian (> 3.7 Ga) terrain and is associated with thick (> 150 m), clay-bearing deposits. Clays are important astrobiologically because they are potential catalytic substrates for (pre)biotic chemistry and have a high potential to preserve biosignatures. The presence of clay-bearing deposits was an important factor in the decision to shortlist an area adjacent to Mawrth Vallis as a candidate landing site for the ExoMars “Rosalind Franklin” rover, whose mission is to search for signs of ancient life on Mars. Ultimately, Mawrth Vallis was not selected as the ExoMars landing site.

The origin and geological context of the clay-bearing deposits is not well understood. Furthermore, the geomorphology of Mawrth Vallis, which records its history of deposition/burial and erosion/exhumation, is also less well-studied compared with its mineralogy. Here, we present our ongoing geological mapping of Mawrth Vallis, which we are conducting to investigate the relationship between the channel and the clay-bearing deposits. We are producing a detailed map of the main Mawrth Vallis channel adjacent to the proposed ExoMars landing ellipse. We will also produce an accompanying geomorphic feature map along the whole length of Mawrth Vallis at a smaller scale.

We are creating this map as part of the Planmap project, which aims to provide standards for European researchers to adhere to in order to aid the dissemination of their maps. Planmap is producing exemplar maps of Mercury, the Moon, and Mars, where various datasets (visual images, elevation models, spectra, crater size-frequency distributions) will be fused to make more fully-intergrated geological maps. The abundance and diversity of data types at Mawrth Vallis, in addition to its scientific interest, make this region particularly suitable for Planmap.

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