16/07/2017

Mars highlighted in Icarus Journal


Figure from the paper highlighted on the
cover of the journal

The volume 293 of the Icarus journal, to be published next September, highlights in his cover a paper signed among other authors by David Fernández-Remolar, member of the Atmospheric Science Group, appreciating this way the significance of the study presented as a contribution to Mars exploration and the current strength of this particular area of research within Solar System exploration.
The paper, Coogoon Valles, western Arabia Terra: Hydrological evolution of a complex Martian channel system, is on the historical study of Coogoon Valles, an area of Mars included in the region of Arabia Terra, from a hydrological point of view. It is a valley system showing a main channel associated to a secondary and intricate network of tributary channels. As a whole, the zone offers clues from which it is possible to trace its geological evolution back to the Noachian period (4,100 to 3,700 million years ago). The geological processes which shaped the area were determined by the presence of huge bulks of water and, in turns, they can be considered as representatives of the global geological evolution of early Mars.
The evolution of Coogoon Valles system has been determined by geochemical processes which took place within water, followed by episodes of denudation by fluvial activity, erosion, transport and sedimentation, together with punctual large-scale volcanism events which have been identified as contributors to the current state of the formation. In addition, Coogoon Valles shows interesting outcrops of exceptionally well-preserved clay-bearing rocks older than 3,8 billion years, so it was proposed as a preferential landing site for ExoMars 2020 mission regarding its astrobiological goals.
The study has been developed from remote sensing data gathered by several imaging instruments on board different missions, namely, Context Camera (CTX) and High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE), both on board Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, and High Resolution Stereo Camera (HRSC) on board Mars Express. Ancillary information from Thermal Emission Imaging System (THEMIS), on board Mars Odissey, and topographic data from Mars Orbiter Laser Altimeter (MOLA), on board Mars Global Surveyor, have been used as well.
All these data have permitted to define a geological map of the region providing a novel approach which has made possible to distinguish primary processes from secondary ones. This has been crucial to trace the appropriate evolution of the different features, avoiding misinterpretations of the processes which led to their formation.
Dr. Fernández-Remolar is a geologist and palaeontologist whose work is currently centred on Mars in a good measure. He is carrying out different geological studies with relation to ExoMars 2020 mission landing site and its implications for HABIT, regarding the present-day habitability on the planet and the conditions for the preservation of possible biosignatures in the ground according to its geological composition and evolution throughout Martian history.

Location of the study area
Credit: The authors