October 14, 2014

Abundance of minerals in the phyllosilicate-rich units on Mars

Poulet, F. et Al.
Astronomy and Astrophysics, 487, 2, L41-L44

Summary: Phyllosilicates were definitely identified on Mars by the OMEGA (Observatoire pour la Minéralogie, l'Eau, les Glaces et l'Activité) instrument onboard the Mars Express spacecraft. The identification, characterization, and mapping of deposits of these minerals hold clues to the potential past habitability. They also constitute a key element in planning for future landing sites. Aims: To infer the environmental conditions that existed at the time of the formation of these minerals, it is critical to determine if and how the composition of the deposits vary in space and time. Methods: We applied radiative transfer modeling to the OMEGA reflectance spectra to derive the modal mineralogy (mineral abundances) of some phyllosilicate-rich deposits. Results: In many outcrops, including the large areas in Nili Fossae, the surface mineralogy is dominated by primary non-altered minerals, with minor fractions of phyllosilicates. These assemblages could result from hydrothermal alteration. By contrast, deposits in the Mawrth Vallis region exhibit a large content of hydrated phyllosilicates, which suggests that the rocks may be mature sedimentary rocks or altered volcanics. Evidence of alteration resulting from metamorphism due to an impact is reported in the central peak of a crater.