Can Clay Mimic the High Reflectivity of Briny Water Below the Martian SPLD?

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Cosciotti, Barbara, Mattei, Elisabetta, Brin, Alessandro, Lauro, Sebastian Emanuel, Stillman, David E., Cunje, Alister, Hickson, Dylan, Caprarelli, Graziella and Pettinelli, Elena. 2023. "Can Clay Mimic the High Reflectivity of Briny Water Below the Martian SPLD?" Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets. 128 (3). https://doi.org/10.1029/2022JE007513
Article Title

Can Clay Mimic the High Reflectivity of Briny Water Below the Martian SPLD?

ERA Journal ID210883
Article CategoryArticle
AuthorsCosciotti, Barbara, Mattei, Elisabetta, Brin, Alessandro, Lauro, Sebastian Emanuel, Stillman, David E., Cunje, Alister, Hickson, Dylan, Caprarelli, Graziella and Pettinelli, Elena
Journal TitleJournal of Geophysical Research: Planets
Journal Citation128 (3)
Article Numbere2022JE007513
Number of Pages12
Year2023
PublisherJohn Wiley & Sons
Place of PublicationUnited States
ISSN2169-9097
2169-9100
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)https://doi.org/10.1029/2022JE007513
Web Address (URL)https://agupubs.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1029/2022JE007513
AbstractIt has recently been suggested that clay minerals, which are widespread on the Martian surface, could be the possible source of the basal bright reflections detected by MARSIS at Ultimi Scopuli, instead of briny water. This hypothesis is based on dielectric measurements on a wet Ca-Montorillonite (STx-1b) sample conducted at 230 K, which reported permittivity values (apparent permittivity of 39 at 4 MHz) compatible with the median value of 33 retrieved by MARSIS 4 MHz data inversion in the high reflectivity area. These experimental results are, however, incompatible with well-established dielectric theory and with laboratory measurements on clays, at MARSIS frequency and Martian temperatures, reported in the literature. Here, we replicate the experiment using a setup to precisely control the rate of cooling/warming and the temperature inside and outside the clay sample. We found that the rate of cooling, the position of the temperature sensor and, consequently, the thermal equilibrium between the sample and the sensor play a fundamental role in the reliability of the measurements. Our results indicate that even for a large water content in the clay sample, at 230 K and 4 MHz, the apparent permittivity is only 8.4, dropping to 4.1 at 200 K, ruling out clays as a possible source of the bright reflections detected by MARSIS at the base of the SPLD.
Keywordsclay materials; Briny Water; SPLD
ANZSRC Field of Research 2020370507. Planetary geology
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Byline AffiliationsThird University of Rome, Italy
Southwest Research Institute, United States
University of Illinois Chicago, United States
Colorado School of Mines, United States
Institute for Advanced Engineering and Space Sciences
Centre for Astrophysics
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