Chicxulub-like Gale impact into an ocean/land interface on Mars: An explanation for the formation of Mount Sharp

James M. Dohm, Wolfgang Fink, Jean Pierre Williams, William C. Mahaney, Justin C. Ferris

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


A geologic investigation of Gale Crater and surrounding terrain was conducted combining orbital data with reported in situ information collected through the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL Curiosity) rover cameras to better explain the anomalous features in and nearby Gale Crater with the primary focus being the formational history of Aeolis Mons, informally named Mount Sharp. Features identified through the orbital- and field-based data collectively can be best explained by an impact into the dichotomy boundary, with the northern half of the target environment being an ocean and water-enriched ignimbrite and the southern half being crustal basement/protolith of Terra Cimmeria (part ocean and part land). Such a spatial association, together with the released impact energy of the resulting ∼154 km-diameter Gale Crater, is similar to the Chicxulub impact crater on Earth in which case the target material being both ocean water and continental crust (i.e., continental shelf underlain by granite-composing continental crust) and the planetary environmental and life conditions being highly altered. This paper presents a working hypothesis, backed by orbital and ground data available thus far, for spatio-temporal events that may have transpired during impact and post-impact to the present. This proposed sequence of events and other working hypotheses will be tested by the ongoing MSL Curiosity investigation as the rover traverses up Mount Sharp.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number115306
StatePublished - Jan 15 2023


  • Chicxulub
  • Earth
  • Gale Crater
  • Hydrothermal activity
  • Ignimbrite
  • Impact
  • Mars
  • Mount Sharp
  • Ocean
  • Water
  • Yucatan

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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