Exogenous carbonaceous matter in ancient martian sediments

Wednesday, 16 December 2015: 08:00
3014 (Moscone West)
Stephen J Mojzsis, University of Colorado at Boulder, Geological Sciences, Boulder, CO, United States, Oleg Abramov, USGS Astrogeology Science Center, Flagstaff, AZ, United States and Akos Kereszturi, Konkoly Observatory, Astrophysical and Geochemical Laboratory, Budapest, Hungary
We re-evaluate the early evolution of an organic-matter rich (~10 wt. %) interplanetary dust particle flux to early Mars. Our work builds upon physical models that rely on plausible sources of exogenous debris and their dynamical rates of decay, the martian cratering record, and preservation of Noachian-Hesperian sedimentary units that have the potential to host organics. Post primary-accretionary scenarios that would have delivered abundant exogenous carbon to Mars can be imagined in two ways: a simple exponential decay with an approximately 100 Myr half-life, or as a “Sawtooth” timeline characterized by both faster-than-exponential decay from primary accretion and reduced total delivered mass. Indications are that a late bombardment spike was superposed on an otherwise broadly monotonic decline from primary accretion, of which two types are explored: a classical “Late Heavy Bombardment” (LHB) peak of impactors centered at ca. 3950 Ma and lasting 100 Myr, and a protracted bombardment typified by a sudden increase in impactor flux at ca. 4240-4100 Ma with a correspondingly longer decay time (400 Myr). Numerical models for each of the four bombardment scenarios explored in this work shows that exogenous organic matter could be a significant component of Noachian (ca. 4200-3700 Ma) and pre-Noachian (4500-4200 Ma) sediments. The discovery of organic-matter in martian sediments will be obfuscated by material of extra-areological origin. We predict that an earmark for the origin of this carbon would be correlated siderophile element abundances (e.g. Ni, Cr, and the platinoids). A time-dependent compositional relationship of C:HSEs would allow us to derive a chemochronology for pre-Hesperian (pre-3700 Ma) sedimentary units.