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Carbonate Mineral Formation on Mars: Clues from Stable Isotope Variation Seen in Cryogenic Laboratory Studies of Carbonate SaltsThe geologic history of water on the planet Mars is intimately connected to the formation of carbonate minerals through atmospheric CO2 and its control of the climate history of Mars. Carbonate mineral formation under modern martian atmospheric conditions could be a critical factor in controlling the martian climate in a means similar to the rock weathering cycle on Earth. The combination of evidence for liquid water on the martian surface and cold surface conditions suggest fluid freezing could be very common on the surface of Mars. Cryogenic calcite forms readily when a rise in pH occurs as a result of carbon dioxide degassing quickly from freezing Ca-bicarbonate-rich water solutions. This is a process that has been observed in some terrestrial settings such as arctic permafrost cave deposits, lakebeds of the Dry Valleys of Antarctica, and in aufeis (river icings) from rivers of N.E. Alaska. We report here the results of a series of laboratory experiments that were conducted to simulate potential cryogenic carbonate formation on the planet Mars. These results indicate that carbonates grown under martian conditions (controlled atmospheric pressure and temperature) show enrichments from starting bicarbonate fluids in both carbon and oxygen isotopes beyond equilibrium values with average delta13C(DIC-CARB) values of ~20.5%0 which exceed the expected equilibrium fractionation factor of [10(sup 3) ln alpha = ~13%0] at 0 degC. Oxygen isotopes showed a smaller enrichment with delta18O(H2O-CARB) values of ~35.5%0, slightly exceeding the equilibrium fractionation factor of [10(sup 3) ln alpha = ~34%0 ] at 0degC. Large kinetic carbon isotope effects during carbonate precipitation could substantially affect the carbon isotope evolution of CO2 on Mars allowing for more efficient removal of 13C from the Noachian atmosphere enriched by atmospheric loss. This mechanism would be consistent with the observations of large carbon isotope variations in martian materials despite the relative paucity of carbonate minerals in the martian crust.
Document ID
Document Type
Conference Paper
Socki, Richard (Jacobs Technologies Engineering Science Contract Group Houston, TX, United States)
Niles, Paul B. (NASA Johnson Space Center Houston, TX, United States)
Sun, Tao (NASA Johnson Space Center Houston, TX, United States)
Fu, Qi (Houston Univ. Houston, TX, United States)
Romanek, Christopher S. (Kentucky Univ. Lexington, KY, United States)
Gibson, Everett K. (NASA Johnson Space Center Houston, TX, United States)
Date Acquired
April 10, 2014
Publication Date
December 8, 2013
Subject Category
Lunar and Planetary Science and Exploration
Report/Patent Number
Meeting Information
American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting(San Francisco, CA)
Distribution Limits