Geological, Geophysical, and Geochemical Analyses of Meridiani
Planum, Mars: A New Interpretation
Brian Hynek (Colorado)
I will present the most recent findings of the Mars Exploration Rover (MER)
Opportunity, which landed in Meridiani Planum, Mars, nearly two years ago.
The MER Team has interpreted the landing site as an ancient evaporite
deposit that formed from multiple episodes of inundation by shallow, salty
water. Regional geological and geophysical analyses of remotely-sensed data
have placed the local results of the MER Team in a broader context. This
has helped to constrain the timing and areal extent of the water-altered
bedrock. Additionally, recent geochemical work shows that the MER Team
interpretation of a sedimentary/evaporite deposit may be seriously flawed.
I will discuss the chemical evidence and propose that an alternative
(volcanic) scenario best fits the current data. Consequently, the model
invokes an environment considerably less favorable for biological activity
on Mars than previously proposed interpretations.