PROSPECTING FOR DIVERSE IGNEOUS ROCK TYPES ON MARS: PIXL ON “BLACK BEAUTY” NWA 7533
Friday, 18 December 2015: 09:45
2009 (Moscone West)
In order to understand the evolution of the Martian crust and mantle, we need to acquire and analyze samples of igneous rocks other than the basaltic and ultramafic lithologies represented by the majority of Martian meteorites. Recent results from the Curiosity Rover demonstrate that diverse rock types exist in some Martian sedimentary environments in the form of conglomerate components or float, some of which shed light on the nature of early Martian crust (e.g., Sautter et al., 2015). We are developing investigation strategies for the in-situ instruments that will be flown on the Mars 2020 rover. These instruments will be used to inform the sampling campaigns required for future sample return missions. To achieve this, we applied PIXL (Planetary Instrument for X-ray Lithochemistry), an instrument for the Mars 2020 rover mission, to the meteorite NWA 7533. This meteorite is a pairing of NWA 7034, known informally as “Black Beauty”, a new type of Martian meteorite that is broadly similar to the average composition of the Martian crust. This type of meteorite is essentially a ‘conglomerate’, with many diverse rock types, including mafic, feldspathic, and exotic rock fragments such as feldspar-ilmenite-phosphate clasts, as observed using higher-spatial resolution and higher sensitivity laboratory instruments (e.g., Agee et al., 2013; Humayun et al., 2014; Santos et al., 2015). Using PIXL, we analyzed a mm-scale cut and polished surface and applied algorithms developed by the PIXL team to semi-autonomously define and group regions containing similar lithological components (Thompson et al., 2015). PIXL data rapidly reveal distinctive zircon-bearing lithologies and feldspar-ilmenite-phosphate clasts similar to the detailed petrographic and mineralogical observations. Results suggest that PIXL readily identifies lithologies with minerals and elements (e.g., Rb and Sr) that are important for geochronology studies.