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Comparative geological studies of volcanic terrain on Mars: Examples from the Isachsen Formation, Axel Heiberg Island, Canadian High Arctic

By
Marie-Claude Williamson
Marie-Claude Williamson
1 Geological Survey of Canada, Natural Resources Canada, 601 Booth Street, Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0E8, Canada
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Helen R. Smyth
Helen R. Smyth
2 CASP, University of Cambridge, West Building, 181a Huntingdon Road, Cambridge CB3 0DH, UK
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Ronald C. Peterson
Ronald C. Peterson
3 Department of Geological Sciences and Geological Engineering, Queen's University, Kingston, Ontario K7L 3N6, Canada
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Denis Lavoie
Denis Lavoie
4 Geological Survey of Canada, Natural Resources Canada, 490 rue de la Couronne, Québec, Québec G1K 9A9, Canada
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Published:
December 01, 2011

Recent orbital and rover missions to Mars have returned high-resolution images that show complex surface landforms in unprecedented detail. In addition, the spectral data sets from mission instruments reveal the presence of a wide array of mineral species on the surface of Mars. These discoveries are changing the analog science requirements of projects targeting exploration missions to Mars. Mission managers now expect field deployments to include complementary investigations of surface processes, rock types, mineral species, and microbial habitats. Earth-based analog sites are selected according to their potential for integrated geological and biological studies, wherein a central theme is the search for life. Geological field studies on Axel Heiberg Island, in the Canadian Arctic, demonstrate that the Isachsen Formation represents a high-fidelity analog for comparative studies of volcanic terrain on Mars. The two sites of interest are located in structurally complex zones (chaotic terrain) where basaltic lava flows, mafic dikes, and sandstone beds of Early Cretaceous age intersect evaporite outliers at the periphery of the diapirs. At the North Agate Fiord diapir and Junction diapir, remnant blocks of basaltic rock are pervasively altered and contain copper and iron sulfides, as well as the secondary sulfates copiapite, fibroferrite, and jarosite (North Agate Fiord diapir). Alteration zones within poorly consolidated quartzitic sandstone consist of thin layers of goethite, hematite, illite, and jarosite. The sites are morphologically different from Martian patera, but they provide access to volcanic successions and evaporites in areas of permafrost, i.e., conditions that are invoked in conceptual models for hydrothermal systems and groundwater flow on Mars.

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GSA Special Papers

Analogs for Planetary Exploration

W. Brent Garry
W. Brent Garry
Planetary Science Institute, Tucson, Arizona, USA
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Jacob E. Bleacher
Jacob E. Bleacher
NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Planetary Geodynamics Lab, Greenbelt, Maryland, USA
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Geological Society of America
Volume
483
ISBN print:
9780813724836
Publication date:
December 01, 2011

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