The Composition and Physical Properties of Chloride Salt-bearing Deposits on Mars
Abstract:Anhydrous chloride salt deposits were first discovered on Mars by the 2001 Odyssey Thermal Emission Imaging System (THEMIS) and have been further characterized by Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter CRISM and Mars Express visible/near-IR (VNIR) hyperspectral imaging spectrometers. At mid-IR wavelengths, the salt-bearing deposits display a blue slope superimposed on the regional regolith spectral shape. At VNIR wavelengths, ratio spectra display a featureless red slope between 1.0 and 2.5 µm and a reduced 3 µm band, indicating that the deposits are desiccated compared to the surrounding terrain.
In this work, we compare laboratory and model spectra to THEMIS spectra to evaluate the abundance and physical properties of salt in these deposits. We acquired mid-IR emissivity spectra of a suite of halite/basalt mixtures separated to <10 µm, 63-90 µm, 125-180 µm, and 250-355 µm. Halite concentrations for each size separate ranged from 1-75%. Laboratory spectra of the coarsest particulates do not adequately reproduce the spectral shapes associated with any of the Martian salt deposits. The finest particulates display spectral characteristics associated with salt deposits found in high albedo, dusty regions of Mars, and those in the middle size ranges are consistent with the spectra of most Martian salt deposits and suggest abundances between 10 and 25 wt.% salt. The increase in salt content from ~10-25% coincides with a shift in the THEMIS emissivity maximum from band 3 to band 4, suggesting this can be used as a rough indicator of salt content in remote sensing studies.
We also used a hybrid T-matrix/Hapke light scattering model to model the scattering properties and mid-IR spectra of clusters of salt/silicate spheres. The model results show that as halite content is increased, the transparency of the cluster increases substantially, resulting in multiple internal scattering, and substantially reduced emissivity, consistent with the THEMIS data and laboratory spectra. Phase function changes associated with increased halite abundance result in the cluster being slightly less forward scattering, which also contributes to the observed spectral changes.