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Theo's Flow, Ontario, Canada: A terrestrial analog for the Martian nakhlite meteorites

By
R.C.F. Lentz
R.C.F. Lentz
1 Hawaii Institute of Geophysics and Planetology, University of Hawaii, Honolulu, Hawaii 96822, USA
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T.J. McCoy
T.J. McCoy
2 Department of Mineral Sciences, National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC 20560-0119, USA
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L.E. Collins
L.E. Collins
2 Department of Mineral Sciences, National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC 20560-0119, USA3 Department of Earth Sciences, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, California 90089-0740, USA
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C.M. Corrigan
C.M. Corrigan
2 Department of Mineral Sciences, National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC 20560-0119, USA
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G.K. Benedix
G.K. Benedix
4 Department of Mineralogy, The Natural History Museum, Cromwell Road, London, UK
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G.J. Taylor
G.J. Taylor
1 Hawaii Institute of Geophysics and Planetology, University of Hawaii, Honolulu, Hawaii 96822, USA
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R.P. Harvey
R.P. Harvey
5 Department of Geology, Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, Ohio 44106-7216, USA
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Published:
December 01, 2011

Martian meteorites provide our only samples for laboratory investigations of Mars, yet the lack of geologic context severely limits their utility. Strong petrologic similarities between the pyroxenitic layer of a 120-m-thick, mafic Archean lava flow in Ontario, Canada, called Theo's Flow, and the nakhlite meteorite group may elucidate geologic processes that operated on Mars. Theo's Flow is in the Abitibi greenstone belt, an area that is well known as a komatiite location. The type locality, and best outcrop, of Theo's Flow is an upturned (~70°) section stretching east-west for ~500 m. Theo's Flow can be divided into distinct lithologic units: a thin basal peridotite (0–9 m), a thick pyroxenite (50–60 m), a gabbro (35–40 m), and a hyaloclastic, brecciated top (8–10 m). It is the thick pyroxenitic layer that bears a striking textural similarity to the Martian nakhlites. Serpentinization of olivine, chloritization of orthopyroxene, and alteration (e.g., pseudomorphic replacement) of plagioclase and minor phases have transformed the original mineral assemblage, though augites remain largely unaltered, and textural relationships are well preserved throughout the flow. Variations in iron and minor-element abundances in augite cores exhibit typical trends for an evolving melt. Bulk rock analyses exhibit elemental trends consistent with an evolving melt, though they exhibit evidence of elemental remobilization by later metamorphism. An average of the peridotite, pyroxenite, and gabbro compositions compares well to that of the quenched top hyaloclastite, suggesting it is a single flow that was differentiated by crystal settling. The lithologic diversity within Theo's Flow suggests that nakhlites may also have complementary lithologies that remain unsampled.

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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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