Craters of the Moon National Monument as a Terrestrial Mars Analog: Examination of Mars Analog Phosphate Minerals, Phosphate Mineral Shock-Recovery Experiments, and Phosphate Minerals in Martian Meteorites

Wednesday, 16 December 2015
Poster Hall (Moscone South)
Christopher T Adcock, Elisabeth Hausrath, Oliver D Tschauner and Arya Udry, University of Nevada Las Vegas, Las Vegas, NV, United States
Martian analogs, meteorites, and data from unmanned missions have greatly advanced our understanding of martian surface and near-surface processes. In particular, terrestrial analogs allow us to investigate Mars-relevant geomorphic, geochemical, petrogenetic, and hydrologic processes, as well as potential habitability. Craters of the Moon National Monument (COTM), located on the Snake River Plain of Idaho in the United States, represents a valuable phosphate-rich Mars analog, allowing us to examine phosphate minerals, important as volatile indicators and potential nutrient providers, under Mars-relevant conditions.

COTM is in an arid to semi-arid environment with sub-freezing lows much of the year. Though wetter than present day Mars (24 - 38 cm MAP) [1], COTM may be analogous to a warmer and wetter past Mars. The area is also the locale of numerous lava flows, a number of which have been dated (2,000 to >18,000 y.b.p.) [2]. The flows have experienced weathering over time and thus represent a chronosequence with application to weathering on Mars. The flows have unusual chemistries, including high average phosphate contents (P2O5 1.75 wt% n=23 flows) [2], close to those in rocks analyzed at Gusev Crater, Mars (P2O5 1.79 wt% n=18 rocks) [3]. The Mars-like high phosphorus contents indicate a potential petrogenetic link and are also of astrobiological interest. Further, current samples of Mars phosphate minerals are limited to meteorites which have been heavily shocked - COTM represents a potential pre-shock and geochemical analog to Mars.

We investigated weathering on COTM basalts and shock effects on Mars-relevant phosphate minerals. We used scanning electron microscopy, backscattered electron imagery, and X-Ray analysis/mapping to investigate COTM thin sections. Synchrotron diffraction was used to investigate martian meteorites and laboratory shocked Mars/COTM-relevant minerals for comparison.

Results of our investigations indicate porosity development correlates with flow age, and shock alteration of phosphate minerals obscures the original phosphate mineralogy in martian meteorites. Thus COTM represents an important chronosequence and pre-shock mineralogy analog for Mars.

[1] Vaughan et al. (2008) SSSAJ 75, [2] Kuntz, et al. (1992) GSA Mem. 179, [3] Adcock et al. (2013) Nat. Geos. 6.