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Clay Deposits Suggest a Favorable Place for Life on Mars

ladon clays weitz mars

HiRISE enhanced color image showing layered sediments that contain clays.

Credit: NASA/JPL/University of Arizona. 


Research by PSI’s Catherine Weitz discovered clay-bearing deposits in the Margaritifer region of Mars that may have been repeatedly habitable until relatively recently (in geologic terms) in Martian history. 

Data from NASA’s High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE), Context Camera (CTX) and the Compact Reconnaissance Imaging Spectrometer for Mars (CRISM) on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter spacecraft, showed clay-bearing deposits associated with layered fluvial sediments in northern Ladon Valley, southern Ladon Basin and highlands around Ladon Basin. 

Weitz, a co-investigator on HiRISE, said the presence of layered fluvial sediments that contain clays indicates that the environment was conductive to life because clays form and remain stable at neutral pH conditions, where water persists for a long period of time. 

Weitz is lead author of “Clay Sediments derived from fluvial activity in and around Ladon basin, Mars” that appears in Icarus.

Feb. 26, 2023
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