Quasi-Periodic Bedding in the Sedimentary Rock Record of Mars

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Science  05 Dec 2008:
Vol. 322, Issue 5907, pp. 1532-1535
DOI: 10.1126/science.1161870

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Widespread sedimentary rocks on Mars preserve evidence of surface conditions different from the modern cold and dry environment, although it is unknown how long conditions favorable to deposition persisted. We used 1-meter stereo topographic maps to demonstrate the presence of rhythmic bedding at several outcrops in the Arabia Terra region. Repeating beds are ∼10 meters thick, and one site contains hundreds of meters of strata bundled into larger units at a ∼10:1 thickness ratio. This repetition likely points to cyclicity in environmental conditions, possibly as a result of astronomical forcing. If deposition were forced by orbital variation, the rocks may have been deposited over tens of millions of years.

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