Hypotheses for the origin of fine-grained sedimentary rocks at Santa Maria crater, Meridiani Planum

Lauren A. Edgar, John P. Grotzinger, James Bell, Joel A. Hurowitz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


En route to Endeavour crater, the Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity embarked on a short but significant campaign at Santa Maria crater during sols 2450-2551. Santa Maria crater is a relatively young impact crater, approximately 100. m in diameter and 11-17. m deep. Opportunity performed detailed analyses on several ejecta blocks and completed an extensive imaging campaign around the crater. Many of the ejecta blocks are composed of sandstone with abundant wind ripple laminations suggestive of eolian deposition. However, other ejecta blocks are massive, fine-grained, and exhibit a nodular texture. These rocks are interpreted to be the first rocks of a grain size smaller than the Microscopic Imager can resolve, and may represent the first mudstones observed by the rover. Several depositional environments are considered for the origin of the fine-grained rocks, and the observations are best fit by a transient evaporitic lake. If the inferred mudstones were deposited in a lacustrine setting, then surface water may have been present in a broader range of surface environments than previously documented at Meridiani Planum.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)36-44
Number of pages9
StatePublished - May 15 2014


  • Mars, atmosphere
  • Mars, climate
  • Mars, surface

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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