Research ArticleSPACE SCIENCES

Early oxidation of the martian crust triggered by impacts

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Science Advances  30 Oct 2020:
Vol. 6, no. 44, eabc4941
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.abc4941


Despite the abundant geomorphological evidence for surface liquid water on Mars during the Noachian epoch (>3.7 billion years ago), attaining a warm climate to sustain liquid water on Mars at the period of the faint young Sun is a long-standing question. Here, we show that melts of ancient mafic clasts from a martian regolith meteorite, NWA 7533, experienced substantial Fe-Ti oxide fractionation. This implies early, impact-induced, oxidation events that increased by five to six orders of magnitude the oxygen fugacity of impact melts from remelting of the crust. Oxygen isotopic compositions of sequentially crystallized phases from the clasts show that progressive oxidation was due to interaction with an 17O-rich water reservoir. Such an early oxidation of the crust by impacts in the presence of water may have supplied greenhouse gas H2 that caused an increase in surface temperature in a CO2-thick atmosphere.

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