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The timing of alluvial activity in Gale crater, Mars



The Curiosity rover's discovery of rocks preserving evidence of past habitable conditions in Gale crater highlights the importance of constraining the timing of responsible depositional settings to understand the astrobiological implications for Mars. Crater statistics and mapping reveal the bulk of the alluvial deposits in Gale, including those interrogated by Curiosity, were likely emplaced during the Hesperian, thereby implying that habitable conditions persisted after the Noachian. Crater counting data sets and upper Peace Vallis fan morphology also suggest a possible younger period of fluvial activation that deposited ~10–20 m of sediments on the upper fan after emplacement of the main body of the fan. If validated, water associated with later alluvial activity may have contributed to secondary diagenetic features in Yellowknife Bay.

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