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Electrically Conducting, Ca-Rich Brines, Rather Than Water, Expected in the Martian SubsurfaceIf Mars ever possessed a salty liquid hydrosphere, which later partly evaporated and froze down, then any aqueous fluids left near the surface could have evolved to become dense eutectic brines. Eutectic brines, by definition, are the last to freeze and the first to melt. If CaC12-rich, such brines can remain liquid until temperatures below 220 K, close to the average surface temperature of Mars. In the Martian subsurface, in intimate contact with the Ca-rich basaltic regolith, NaC1-rich early brines should have reacted to become Ca-rich. Fractional crystallization (freezing) and partial melting would also drive brines toward CaC12-rich compositions. In other words, eutectic brine compositions could be present in the shallow subsurface of Mars, for the same reasons that eutectic magma compositions are common on Earth. Don Juan Pond, Antarctica, a CaC12-rich eutectic brine, provides a possible terrestrial analog, particularly because it is fed from a basaltic aquifer. Owing to their relative density and fluid nature, brines in the Martian regolith should eventually become sandwiched between ice above and salts beneath. A thawing brine sandwich provides one explanation (among many) for the young gullies recently attributed to seepage of liquid water on Mars. Whether or not brine seepage explains the gullies phenomenon, dense, CaC12-rich brines are to be expected in the deep subsurface of Mars, although they might be somewhat diluted (temperatures permitting) and of variable salt composition. In any case, they should be good conductors of electricity.
Document ID
Acquisition Source
Document Type
Reprint (Version printed in journal)
External Source(s)
Burt, D. M.
(Lunar and Planetary Inst. Houston, TX, United States)
Knauth, L. P.
(Arizona State Univ. Tempe, AZ, United States)
Date Acquired
August 21, 2013
Publication Date
January 1, 2003
Publication Information
Publication: Journal of Geophysical Research
Publisher: American Geophysical Union
Volume: 108
Issue: E4
ISSN: 0148-0227
Subject Category
Lunar And Planetary Science And Exploration
Report/Patent Number
Funding Number(s)
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