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Iron Mineralogy and Aqueous Alteration on Mars from the MER Moessbauer SpectrometersThe twin Mars Exploration Rovers Spirit (Gusev crater) and Opportunity (Meridiani Planum) used MIMOS II Moessbauer spectrometers to analyze martian surface materials in the first application of extraterrestrial Moessbauer spectroscopy. The instruments acquired spectra that identified the speciation of Fe according to oxidation state, coordination state, and mineralogical composition and provided quantitative information about the distribution of Fe among oxidation states, coordination states, and Fe-bearing phases. A total of 12 unique Fe-bearing phases were identified: Fe(2+) in olivine, pyroxene, and ilmenite; Fe(2+) and Fe(3+) in magnetite and chromite; Fe(3+) in nanophase ferric oxide (npOx), hematite, goethite, jarosite, an unassigned Fe3+ sulfate, and an unassigned Fe(3+) phase associated with jarosite; and Fe(0) in kamacite. Weakly altered basalts at Gusev crater (SO3 = 2.5 +/- 1.4 wt.% and Fe(3+)/Fe(sub T) = 0.24 +/- 0.11) are widespread on the Gusev plains and occur in less abundance on West Spur and Husband Hill in the Columbia Hills. Altered low-S rocks (SO3 = 5.2 +/- 2.0 wt.% and Fe(3+)/Fe(sub T) = 0.63 +/- 0.18) are the most common type of rock in the Columbia Hills. Ilm-bearing, weakly altered basalts were detected only in the Columbia Hills, as was the only occurrence of chromite in an altered low-S rock named Assemblee. Altered high-S rocks (SO3 > 14.2 wt.% and Fe(3+)/Fe(sub T) = 0.83 +/- 0.05) are the outcrop rocks of the ubiquitous Burns formation at Meridiani Planum. Two Fe(0)-bearing rocks at Meridiani Planum (Barberton and Heat Shield Rock) are meteorites. Laguna Class soil is weakly altered (SO3 = 6 +/- 2 wt.% and Fe(3+)/Fe(sub T) = 0.29 +/- 0.08) and widely distributed at both Gusev crater and Meridiani Planum, implying efficient global mixing processes or a global distribution of precursor rocks with comparable Fe mineralogical compositions. Paso Robles Class soil is heavily altered (SO3 approx. 31 wt.% and Fe(3+)/Fe(sub T) = 0.83 +/- 0.05), is relatively uncommon, and occurs as subsurface deposits in the Columbia Hills. Berry Class soil is also heavily altered (SO3 = 5 +/- 1 wt.% and Fe(3+)/Fe(sub T) = 0.60 +/- 0.13) and occurs at Meridiani Planum as lag deposits, at the crests of aeolian bedforms, and as isolated pockets on outcrop surfaces. Magnetite is identified as the strongly magnetic component in martian soil. Jarosite (in the Burns outcrop at Meridiani Planum) and goethite (in Clovis Class rocks at Gusev crater) are mineralogical markers for aqueous processes because they contain the hydroxide anion (OH(-)) as an essential part of their structure. Each yields approx.10 wt.% H2O upon dehydroxylation. The presence of Fe sulfates on opposite sides of Mars is evidence that aqueous processes under acid sulfate conditions are or were common. Except for Independence Class rocks in the Columbia Hills, the overall Fe mineralogical compositions and similar basaltic bulk chemical compositions (calculated with respect to S = Cl = 0) of the population of altered rocks analyzed by MER imply isochemical alteration of basaltic precursors at low water-to-rock ratios.
Document ID
Document Type
Preprint (Draft being sent to journal)
Morris, Richard V.
(NASA Johnson Space Center Houston, TX, United States)
Klingelhoefer, Goestar
(Mainz Univ. Germany)
Date Acquired
August 23, 2013
Publication Date
January 1, 2007
Subject Category
Funding Number(s)
Distribution Limits
Public Use Permitted.
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