Field reconnaissance geologic mapping of the Columbia Hills, Mars, based on Mars Exploration Rover Spirit and MRO HiRISE observations


Crumpler LS, Arvidson RE, Squyres SW, McCoy TJ, Yingst RA, Ruff SW, Farrand WH, McSween HY, Powell MW, Ming DW, Morris RV, Bell III JF, Grant JA, Greeley R & Schröder C (2011) Field reconnaissance geologic mapping of the Columbia Hills, Mars, based on Mars Exploration Rover Spirit and MRO HiRISE observations. Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets, 116 (E7), Art. No.: E00F24.

Chemical, mineralogic, and lithologic ground truth was acquired for the first time on Mars in terrain units mapped using orbital Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter’s High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (MRO HiRISE) image data. Examination of several dozen outcrops shows that Mars is geologically complex at meter length scales, the record of its geologic history is well exposed, stratigraphic units may be identified and correlated across significant areas on the ground, and outcrops and geologic relationships between materials may be analyzed with techniques commonly employed in terrestrial field geology. Despite their burial during the course of Martian geologic time by widespread epiclastic materials, mobile fines, and fall deposits, the selective exhumation of deep and well‐preserved geologic units has exposed undisturbed outcrops, stratigraphic sections, and structural information much as they are preserved and exposed on Earth. A rich geologic record awaits skilled future field investigators on Mars. The correlation of ground observations and orbital images enables construction of a corresponding geologic reconnaissance map. Most of the outcrops visited are interpreted to be pyroclastic, impactite, and epiclastic deposits overlying an unexposed substrate, probably related to a modified Gusev crater central peak. Fluids have altered chemistry and mineralogy of these protoliths in degrees that vary substantially within the same map unit. Examination of the rocks exposed above and below the major unconformity between the plains lavas and the Columbia Hills directly confirms the general conclusion from remote sensing in previous studies over past years that the early history of Mars was a time of more intense deposition and modification of the surface. Although the availability of fluids and the chemical and mineral activity declined from this early period, significant later volcanism and fluid convection enabled additional, if localized, chemical activity.

Mars; mapping; rovers; stratigraphy

Additional co-authors: D DesMarais, M Schmidt, NA Cabrol, A Haldemann, Kevin W Lewis, AE Wang, D Blaney, B Cohen, A Yen, J Farmer, R Gellert, EA Guinness, KE Herkenhoff, JR Johnson, G Klingelhöfer, A McEwen, JW Rice Jr, M Rice, P deSouza, J Hurowitz

Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets: Volume 116, Issue E7

Publication date06/07/2011
PublisherAmerican Geophysical Union