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Widespread weathered glass on the surface of Mars

Briony Horgan and James F. Bell
Widespread weathered glass on the surface of Mars
Geology (Boulder) (March 2012) 40 (5): 391-394


Low albedo sediments cover >10 (super 7) km (super 2) in the northern lowlands of Mars, but the composition and origin of these widespread deposits have remained ambiguous despite many previous investigations. Here we use near-infrared spectra acquired by the Mars Express OMEGA (Observatoire pour la Mineralogie, l'Eau, les Glaces, et l'Activite) imaging spectrometer to show that these sediments exhibit spectral characteristics that are consistent with both high abundances of iron-bearing glass and silica-enriched leached rinds on glass. This interpretation is supported by observations of low-albedo soil grains with possible rinds at the Phoenix Mars Lander landing site in the northern lowlands. By comparison with the extensive glass-rich dune fields and sand sheets of Iceland, we propose an explosive volcanic origin for these glass-rich sediments. We also propose that the glassy remnant rinds on the sediments are the result of postdepositional alteration, as these rinds are commonly formed in arid terrestrial volcanic environments during water-limited, moderately acidic leaching. These weathered, glass-rich deposits in the northern lowlands are also colocated with the strongest concentrations of a major global compositional surface type previously identified in mid-infrared spectra, suggesting that they may be representative of global processes. Our results provide potential confirmation of models suggesting that explosive volcanism has been widespread on Mars, and also raise the possibilities that glass-rich volcaniclastics are a major source of eolian sand on Mars and that widespread surficial aqueous alteration has occurred under Amazonian climatic conditions.

ISSN: 0091-7613
EISSN: 1943-2682
Serial Title: Geology (Boulder)
Serial Volume: 40
Serial Issue: 5
Title: Widespread weathered glass on the surface of Mars
Affiliation: Arizona State University, School of Earth and Space Exploration, Tempe, AZ, United States
Pages: 391-394
Published: 20120326
Text Language: English
Publisher: Geological Society of America (GSA), Boulder, CO, United States
References: 31
Accession Number: 2012-100776
Categories: Extraterrestrial geology
Document Type: Serial
Bibliographic Level: Analytic
Annotation: With GSA Data Repository Item 2012121; accessed on April 9, 2012
Illustration Description: illus. incl. sketch maps
Source Medium: WWW
Country of Publication: United States
Secondary Affiliation: GeoRef, Copyright 2017, American Geosciences Institute. Reference includes data from GeoScienceWorld, Alexandria, VA, United States. Reference includes data supplied by the Geological Society of America, Boulder, CO, United States
Update Code: 201252
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