Hydrothermal Alteration Mineralogy Characterized Through Multiple Analytical Methods: Implications for Mars
Abstract:Proper characterization of mineralogy is an essential part of geologic interpretation. This process becomes even more critical when attempting to interpret the history of a region remotely, via satellites and/or landed spacecraft. Orbiters and landed missions to Mars carry with them a wide range of analytical tools to aid in the interpretation of Mars’ geologic history. However, many instruments make a single type of measurement (e.g., APXS: elemental chemistry; XRD: mineralogy), and multiple data sets must be utilized to develop a comprehensive understanding of a sample. Hydrothermal alteration products often exist in intimate mixtures, and vary widely across a site due to changing pH, temperature, and fluid/gas chemistries. These characteristics require that we develop a detailed understanding regarding the possible mineral mixtures that may exist, and their detectability in different instrument data sets.
This comparative analysis study utilized several analytical methods on existing or planned Mars rovers (XRD Raman, LIBS, Mössbauer, and APXS) combined with additional characterization (thin section, VNIR, XRF, SEM-EMP) to develop a comprehensive suite of data for hydrothermal alteration products collected from Poás and Turrialba volcanoes in Costa Rica. Analyzing the same samples across a wide range of instruments allows for direct comparisons of results, and identification of instrumentation “blind spots.” This provides insight into the ability of in-situ analyses to comprehensively characterize sites on Mars exhibiting putative hydrothermal characteristics, such as the silica and sulfate deposits at Gusev crater [eg: Squyres et al., 2008], as well as valuable information for future mission planning and data interpretation.
Squyres et al. (2008), Detection of Silica-Rich Deposits on Mars, Science, 320, 1063-1067, doi:10.1126/science.1155429.