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Aqueous Alteration on MarsAqueous alteration is the change in composition of a rock, produced in response to interactions with H2O-bearing ices, liquids, and vapors by chemical weathering. A variety of mineralogical and geochemical indicators for aqueous alteration on Mars have been identified by a combination of surface and orbital robotic missions, telescopic observations, characterization of Martian meteorites, and laboratory and terrestrial analog studies. Mineralogical indicators for aqueous alteration include goethite (lander), jarosite (lander), kieserite (orbiter), gypsum (orbiter) and other Fe-, Mg-, and Ca-sulfates (landers), halides (meteorites, lander), phyllosilicates (orbiter, meteorites), hematite and nanophase iron oxides (telescopic, orbiter, lander), and Fe-, Mg-, and Ca-carbonates (meteorites). Geochemical indicators (landers only) for aqueous alteration include Mg-, Ca-, and Fe-sulfates, halides, and secondary aluminosilicates such as smectite. Based upon these indicators, several styles of aqueous alteration have been suggested on Mars. Acid-sulfate weathering (e.g., formation of jarosite, gypsum, hematite, and goethite), may occur during (1) the oxidative weathering of ultramafic igneous rocks containing sulfides, (2) sulfuric acid weathering of basaltic materials, and (3) acid fog (i.e., vapors rich in H2SO4) weathering of basaltic or basaltic-derived materials. Near-neutral or alkaline alteration occurs when solutions with pH near or above 7 move through basaltic materials and form phases such as phyllosilicates and carbonates. Very low water:rock ratios appear to have been prominent at most of the sites visited by landed missions because there is very little alteration (leaching) of the original basaltic composition (i.e., the alteration is isochemical or in a closed hydrologic system). Most of the aqueous alteration appears to have occurred early in the history of the planet (3 to 4.5 billion years ago); however, minor aqueous alteration may be occurring at the surface even today (e.g., in thin films of water or by acid fog).
Document ID
Document Type
Reprint (Version printed in journal)
Ming, Douglas W. (NASA Johnson Space Center Houston, TX, United States)
Morris, Richard V. (NASA Johnson Space Center Houston, TX, United States)
Clark, Benton C. (Lockheed Martin Corp. Houston, TX, United States)
Date Acquired
August 23, 2013
Publication Date
January 1, 2007
Subject Category
Geosciences (General)
Distribution Limits
Public Use Permitted.

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