July 13, 2016

Characterization of hydrated silicate-bearing outcrops in Tyrrhena Terra, Mars: Implications to the alteration history of Mars

D. Loizeau et al.
ICARUS, Volume: 219, Pages: 476-497, doi:10.1016/j.icarus.2010.12.017

Summary: The Tyrrhena Terra region of Mars is studied with the imaging spectrometers OMEGA (Observatoire pour la Minéralogie, l'Eau, les Glaces et l'Activité) onboard Mars Express and CRISM (Compact Reconnaissance Infrared Spectrometer for Mars) onboard Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, through the observation of tens of craters that impacted into this part of the Martian highlands. The 175 detections of hydrated silicates are reported, mainly associated with ejecta blankets, crater walls and rims, and central up-lifts. Sizes of craters where hydrated silicates are detected are highly variable, diameters range from less than 1 km to 42 km. We report the presence of zeolites and phyllosilicates like prehnite, Mg-chlorite, Mg-rich smectites and mixed-layer chlorites-smectites and chlorite-vermiculite from comparison of hyperspectral infrared observations with laboratory spectra. These minerals are associated with fresh craters post-dating any aqueous activity. They likely represent ancient hydrated terrains excavated by the crater-forming impacts, and hence reveal the composition of the altered Noachian crust, although crater-related hydrothermal activity may have played a minor role for the largest craters (<20 km in diameter). Most detected minerals formed over relatively high temperatures (100-300°C), likely due to aqueous alteration of the Noachian crust by regional low grade metamorphism from the Noachian thermal gradient and/or by extended hydrothermal systems associated with Noachian volcanism and ancient large impact craters. This is in contrast with some other phyllosilicate-bearing regions like Mawrth Vallis where smectites, kaolinites and hydrated silica were mainly identified, pointing to a predominance of surface/shallow sub-surface alteration; and where excavation by impacts played only a minor role. Smooth plains containing hydrated silicates are observed at the boundary between the Noachian altered crust, dissected by fluvial valleys, and the Hesperian unaltered volcanic plains. These plains may correspond to alluvial deposition of eroded material. The highlands of Tyrrhena Terra are therefore particularly well suited for investigating the diversity of hydrated minerals in ancient Martian terrains.