Chloride-Bearing Materials in the Southern Highlands of Mars

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Science  21 Mar 2008:
Vol. 319, Issue 5870, pp. 1651-1654
DOI: 10.1126/science.1150690

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Chlorides commonly precipitate during the evaporation of surface water or groundwater and during volcanic outgassing. Spectrally distinct surface deposits consistent with chloride-bearing materials have been identified and mapped using data from the 2001 Mars Odyssey Thermal Emission Imaging System. These deposits are found throughout regions of low albedo in the southern highlands of Mars. Geomorphologic evidence from orbiting imagery reveals these deposits to be light-toned relative to their surroundings and to be polygonally fractured. The deposits are small (< ∼25 km2) but globally widespread, occurring in middle to late Noachian terrains with a few occurrences in early Hesperian terrains. The identification of chlorides in the ancient southern highlands suggests that near-surface water was available and widespread in early Martian history.

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