Searching at the right time of day: Evidence for aqueous minerals in Columbus crater with TES and THEMIS data

Alice M. Baldridge, Melissa D. Lane, Christopher S. Edwards

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


The primary objective of the Thermal Emission Imaging System (THEMIS) experiment, which has been in orbit at Mars since early 2002, is to identify minerals associated with hydrothermal and subaqueous environments. Data from THEMIS have supported the presence of clays, silica-rich deposits, and chlorides but has not before provided definitive evidence for the presence of sulfates. This is an especially puzzling result given that sulfates have been extensively identified with other instruments at Mars. If present, sufficiently exposed, and in high enough abundances, such minerals should be detectable in orbital thermal infrared spectra at the resolution of THEMIS. The extended mission proposal for THEMIS on Mars Odyssey suggests that the detection of all minerals may be enhanced by observing at an earlier time of day and thus at warmer temperatures. Therefore, in 2009, Odyssey moved to an earlier orbit time. Here, we examine THEMIS data collected when the earlier orbit time coincided with the Martian local (southern) late summer (Ls = 270) for Columbus crater where Compact Reconnaissance Imaging Spectrometer for Mars (CRISM) data have detected a number of aqueous minerals. Some of the warmest THEMIS images show evidence for aqueous minerals, although not in the same locations where CRISM finds the highest concentrations. Several factors contribute to this result, including differences in the diurnal temperature curve and levels of induration and particle size. For THEMIS, earlier time-of-day and proper seasonal observations combine to provide warm surface temperatures and ideal low atmospheric opacity that significantly increases the ability to definitively identify low spectral contrast aqueous minerals at the surface of Mars. Key Points Mineral detections by THEMIS are enhanced by warmer surface temperaturesIn 2009, Odyssey moved to an earlier time of day orbitAqueous minerals are observed in Columbus crater in THEMIS data after 2009

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)179-189
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Planets
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • aqueous minerals
  • orbit time

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geochemistry and Petrology
  • Geophysics
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Space and Planetary Science


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