Orbital identification of carbonate-bearing rocks on Mars.
ABSTRACT Geochemical models for Mars predict carbonate formation during aqueous alteration. Carbonate-bearing rocks had not previously been detected on Mars' surface, but Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter mapping reveals a regional rock layer with near-infrared spectral characteristics that are consistent with the presence of magnesium carbonate in the Nili Fossae region. The carbonate is closely associated with both phyllosilicate-bearing and olivine-rich rock units and probably formed during the Noachian or early Hesperian era from the alteration of olivine by either hydrothermal fluids or near-surface water. The presence of carbonate as well as accompanying clays suggests that waters were neutral to alkaline at the time of its formation and that acidic weathering, proposed to be characteristic of Hesperian Mars, did not destroy these carbonates and thus did not dominate all aqueous environments.
Full-textDOI: · Available from: John F. Mustard, May 29, 2015
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ABSTRACT: Molecular hydrogen produced through iron oxidation during formation of serpentine and magnetite can sustain terrestrial subsurface ecosystems. The Fe3+ in serpentine partitions into octahedral and tetrahedral sites differently as serpentinization proceeds, and tetrahedral Fe3+ is present toward the end of serpentinization. We map Fe oxidation states in a serpentinite to determine the degree to which serpentinization progressed and where hydrogen production has been maximized to assess habitability at an abandoned chrysotile mine in Norbestos, Quebec, in association with the Canadian Space Agency's Mars Methane Analogue Mission. We also analyzed stable isotopes of carbon and oxygen in carbonates to constrain the conditions of water–rock interaction during serpentinization. Iron oxidation and coordination was determined through field imaging of rock walls with a visible hyperspectral imager (420–720 nm), and samples collected from imaged rocks and elsewhere in the mine were imaged in the laboratory (420–1100 nm). Sample chemistry, mineralogy, and oxidation state were determined with laboratory measurements of visible through mid-infrared reflectance spectra, major element chemistry, mineralogy, and Mössbauer spectroscopy. Mapping with hyperspectral imaging of outcrops and hand samples shows that tetrahedral Fe3+ is common in serpentinites at this site, and results are confirmed through other measurements. Major element chemistry and mineralogy are consistent with serpentine plus minor carbonate. Carbonate samples show an exceptional range in δ13C (−13.14 to VPDB) and δ18O (−15.48 to VPDB) that vary with location in the mine. Carbonates south of a shear zone (δ13C more positive) likely formed during periods of serpentinization in a carbon-limited reservoir closed to carbon addition but open to methane escape. Carbonates in a shear zone (δ13C more negative) probably formed later at low temperatures through CO2-metasomatism or atmospheric weathering, and isotopic trends are consistent with kinetic fractionation. The extensive presence of tetrahedral Fe3+ in serpentine shows the system liberally produced H2 while the isotope systematics have implications for preservation of indicators of the aqueous conditions that formed serpentinites on Mars and their habitability.Earth and Planetary Science Letters 04/2015; 416. DOI:10.1016/j.epsl.2015.02.002 · 4.72 Impact Factor
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ABSTRACT: Spectral mapping of a calcite-marcasite vug and its weathering products shows evolution from hot, reducing to cooler, oxidizing to chemically complex fluids.Lunar and Planetary Science Conference; 03/2015
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ABSTRACT: Experiments were performed to better understand the role of environmental factors on reaction pathways and corresponding carbon isotope fractionations during abiotic hydrothermal synthesis of organic compounds using piston cylinder apparatus at 750 °C and 5.5 kbars. Chemical compositions of experimental products and corresponding carbon isotopic values were obtained by a Pyrolysis-GC-MS-IRMS system. Alkanes (methane and ethane), straight-chain saturated alcohols (ethanol and n-butanol) and monocarboxylic acids (formic and acetic acids) were generated with ethanol being the only organic compound with higher 13C than CO2. CO was not detected in experimental products owing to the favorable water-gas shift reaction under high water pressure conditions. The pattern of δ13C values of CO2, carboxylic acids and alkanes are consistent with their equilibrium isotope relationships: CO2 > carboxylic acids > alkanes, but the magnitude of the fractionation among them is higher than predicted isotope equilibrium values. In particular, the isotopic fractionation between CO2 and CH4 remained constant at ∼31‰, indicating a kinetic effect during CO2 reduction processes. No “isotope reversal” of δ13C values for alkanes or carboxylic acids was observed, which indicates a different reaction pathway than what is typically observed during Fischer-Tropsch synthesis under gas phase conditions. Under constraints imposed in experiments, the anomalous 13C isotope enrichment in ethanol suggests that hydroxymethylene is the organic intermediate, and that the generation of other organic compounds enriched in 12C were facilitated by subsequent Rayleigh fractionation of hydroxymethylene reacting with H2 and/or H2O. Carbon isotope fractionation data obtained in this study are instrumental in assessing the controlling factors on abiotic formation of organic compounds in hydrothermal systems. Knowledge on how environmental conditions affect reaction pathways of abiotic synthesis of organic compounds is critical for understanding deep subsurface ecosystems and the origin of organic compounds on Mars and other planets.Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta 01/2015; 154. DOI:10.1016/j.gca.2015.01.027 · 4.25 Impact Factor