case western reserve university



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.