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Publication Type:

Journal Article


AGU Advances, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd, Volume 1, Number 2, p.e2019AV000141 (2020)






delta, hydrology, Jezero, mars, meandering, rover


<p>Abstract Although there is little doubt that rivers once flowed on Mars' surface, how sustained and frequent their flows were remains enigmatic. Understanding the hydrology of early Mars, nonetheless, is a prerequisite to resolving the planet's climate history and the astrobiological potential of various ancient putative ecosystems. In 2021, NASA's Perseverance rover will attempt to land near ancient fluviodeltaic deposits in Jezero crater. Deltas offer enhanced organic-matter burial and preservation on Earth but translating this notion to early Martian environments remains speculative in the absence of information on flow intermittency and sedimentation rates. Here we develop a new model to infer the lateral migration rate of Martian river meanders, which, combined with orbiter-based observations of the fluviodeltaic deposits at Jezero crater, allows us to determine a minimum timescale for the formation of its delta. We then independently constrain the total duration of delta formation, including dry spells. Our best estimates suggest that delta formation spanned ~19?37&nbsp;years over a total duration of ~380,000&nbsp;years, i.e., that rivers flowed for a minimum ~1&nbsp;sol/15?30&nbsp;Martian years&nbsp;and conceivably more frequently, but uncertainties on total duration are large. Despite a possibly arid climate, predicted sedimentation rates are high, suggesting a rapid burial of putative organics in distal deposits. Altogether, our results support Jezero crater's potential as a prime target to look for ancient Martian life and acquire samples to return to Earth. Any discrepancies between our predictions of the deposits' grain-to-bedform-scale architecture and future rover observations will shed critical light onto Mars' early surface environments.</p>