Abstract

Beidellites may exist on Mars and represent intermediate alteration products; their presence would indicate different alteration environments than previously identified because montmorillonite is a low-grade alteration mineral whereas beidellite is a higher-temperature alteration mineral, and often represents a step toward illite formation. The reflectance spectra of beidellites are under study to support their orbital detection on Mars, where spectral signatures of other Al-rich phyllosilicates have been observed. Reflectance spectra of ten Al-rich smectites are presented here which include pure beidellites and Al smectites having compositions between those of beidellite and montmorillonite, and emphasis is placed here on the OH combination bands near 4545 cm−1 (2.2 μm) as these vibrational features are commonly used in the identification of phyllosilicates on Mars. Shifts were observed in the Al2OH band centers, which occur near 4590 cm−1 (2.18 μm) in reflectance spectra of beidellite and near 4525 cm−1 (2.21 μm) in reflectance spectra of montmorillonite. These are compared with the Al2OH bending vibrations observed near 941–948 cm−1 (10.5–10.6 μm) for beidellite and near 918–926 cm−1 (10.8–10.9 μm) for montmorillonite. Although the octahedral site cation composition provides the greatest influence on the vibrational energies of the M2OH groups, the tetrahedral site cation composition also influences these vibrations. Shifts were observed in the Si–O–Al bending vibrations from 552 and 480 cm−1 (18.1 and 20.8 μm) in beidellite spectra to 544 and 475 cm−1 (18.4 and 21.0 μm) in montmorillonite spectra. Gaussian modeling of the 4545 cm−1 (2.2 μm) bands led to the discrimination of four overlapping bands in each of the ten Al smectite spectra examined in this study. Shifts in the band center and area of the primary spectral band are coordinated with substitution of Al for Si in the tetrahedral sheet. This is consistent with beidellites having a greater tetrahedral layer charge than montmorillonites. The observed spectral differences were sufficiently large that these Al-rich smectites can be differentiated in orbital data of Mars. A pure beidellite-type spectrum is observed in an isolated Al phyllosilicate-bearing outcrop in Libya Montes, a region where Fe-rich smectite is common but Al-rich smectite is rare. Beidellite-type reflectance spectra were also observed in one area of the Nili Fossae region. In contrast, a variety of Al phyllosilicates were found in the ancient rocks at Mawrth Vallis, including some smaller clay-bearing regions exhibiting spectral signatures more consistent with beidellite-like than montmorillonite-like chemistry.

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