Identification of Crystalline Minerals in Volcanic Alteration Products and Applications to the Surface of Mars

Source: NTRS

ABSTRACT Visible, infrared and Mossbauer spectra have been measured for fine-grained alteration products of volcanic tephra and ash. Comparison of the spectral and chemical properties for different size separates and related samples provides information about the crystalline materials in these samples and how they may have formed. Hydrothermal processes can increase the alteration rates of the primary minerals and glass and provide S, Fe and/or water for formation of sulfates and hydrated minerals. Identification of crystalline alteration minerals on Mars may indicate hydrothermal alteration and sites of interesting geologic processes.

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    ABSTRACT: Determining the mineralogy of the Martian surface material provides information about the past and present environments on Mars which are an integral aspect of whether or not Mars was suitable for the origin of life. Mineral identification on Mars will most likely be achieved through visible-infrared remote sensing in combination with other analyses on landed missions. Therefore, understanding the visible and infrared spectral properties of terrestrial samples formed via processes similar to those thought to have occurred on Mars is essential to this effort and will facilitate site selection for future exobiology missions to Mars. Visible to infrared reflectance spectra are presented here for the fine-grained fractions of altered tephra/lava from the Haleakala summit basin on Maui, the Tarawera volcanic complex on the northern island of New Zealand, and the Greek Santorini island group. These samples exhibit a range of chemical and mineralogical compositions, where the primary minerals typically include plagioclase, pyroxene, hematite, and magnetite. The kind and abundance of weathering products varied substantially for these three sites due, in part, to the climate and weathering environment. The moist environments at Santorini and Tarawera are more consistent with postulated past environments on Mars, while the dry climate at the top of Haleakala is more consistent with the current Martian environment. Weathering of these tephra is evaluated by assessing changes in the leachable and immobile elements, and through detection of phyllosilicates and iron oxide/oxyhydroxide minerals. Identifying regions on Mars where phyllosilicates and many kinds of iron oxides/oxyhydroxides are present would imply the presence of water during alteration of the surface material. Tephra samples altered in the vicinity of cinder cones and steam vents contain higher abundances of phyllosilicates, iron oxides, and sulfates and may be interesting sites for exobiology.
    Journal of Geophysical Research Atmospheres 01/1999; 103(E13):31457-76. DOI:10.1029/1998JE900008 · 3.44 Impact Factor