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Abstract

Mawrth Vallis is an outflow channel on Mars that cuts through some of the planet’s most ancient terrains, which contain many different types of fractures. The ExoMars rover mission will search for biosignatures on Mars, and this site was proposed as one of the two final candidate landing sites for the rover. A biosignature is any object that shows evidence of past or present life. Fracture networks are a high priority for the mission because they might contain minerals precipitated by fluid interaction, and these minerals could trap and preserve biosignatures, critical for our understanding of ancient processes. In this project, we seek to determine the distribution and origin of large fractures in the Mawrth Vallis region. The Java Mission-Planning and Analysis for Remote Sensing (JMARS) program and satellite images from the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) orbiter were both used to map fractures at Mawrth Vallis. Based on similar fractures on Earth, we have interpreted that all of the large fractures formed due to water loss, but a rectangular shape suggests that the fractures formed when rocks contracted at the surface, while curvilinear fractures formed in subaqueous sediments. After contraction, the fractures were filled in by precipitated minerals, causing them to appear bright. These fractures on Mars imply some sort of fluid flow, and precipitated minerals in the fractures may preserve evidence of the environment and ancient life that once existed in that area.

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