Abstract

The enhanced spatial and spectral resolution provided by the Compact Reconnaissance Imaging Spectrometer for Mars (CRISM) on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) has led to the discovery of numerous hydrated silicate minerals on Mars, particularly in the ancient, cratered crust comprising the southern highlands. Phases recently identified using visible/near-infrared spectra include: smectite, chlorite, prehnite, high-charge phyllosilicates (illite or muscovite), the zeolite analcime, opaline silica, and serpentine. Some mineral assemblages represent the products of aqueous alteration at elevated temperatures. Geologic occurrences of these mineral assemblages are described using examples from west of the Isidis basin near the Nili Fossae and with reference to differences in implied temperature, fluid composition, and starting materials during alteration. The alteration minerals are not distributed homogeneously. Rather, certain craters host distinctive alteration assemblages: (1) prehnite-chlorite-silica, (2) analcime-silica-Fe,Mg-smectite-chlorite, (3) chlorite-illite (muscovite), and (4) serpentine, which furthermore has been found in bedrock units. These assemblages contrast with the prevalence of solely Fe,Mg-smectites in most phyllosilicate-bearing terrains on Mars, and they represent materials altered at depth then exposed by cratering. Of the minerals found to date, prehnite provides the clearest evidence for subsurface, hydrothermal/metamorphic alteration, as it forms only under highly restricted conditions (T = 200–400ºC). Multiple mechanisms exist for forming the other individual minerals; however, the most likely formation mechanisms for the characteristic mineralogic assemblages observed are, for (1) and (2), low-grade metamorphism or hydrothermal (<400ºC) circulation of fluids in basalt; for (3), transformation of trioctahedral smectites to chlorite and dioctahedral smectites to illite during diagenesis; and for (4), low-grade metamorphism or hydrothermal (<400ºC) circulation of fluids in ultramafic rocks. Evidence for high-grade metamorphism at elevated pressures or temperatures >400ºC has not been found.

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