Abstract

The December 1974 flow in the SW rift zone at Kilauea Volcano, Hawaii, has been established as a Mars analog due to its physical, chemical, and morphological properties, as well as its interaction with the outgassing plume from the primary Kilauea caldera. We focus on a solfatara site that consists of hydrothermally altered basalt and alteration products deposited in and around a passively degassing volcanic vent situated directly adjacent to the December 1974 flow on its northwest side. Reflectance spectra are acquired in the visible/near-infrared (VNIR) region and emission spectra in the mid-infrared (MIR) range to better understand the spectral properties of hydrothermally altered materials. The VNIR signatures are consistent with silica, Fe-oxides, and sulfates (Ca, Fe). Primarily silica-dominated spectral signatures are observed in the MIR and changes in spectral features between samples appear to be driven by grain size effects in this wavelength range. The nature of the sample coating and the thermal emission signatures exhibit variations that may be correlated with distance from the vent. Chemical analyses indicate that most surfaces are characterized by silica-rich material, Fe-oxides, and sulfates (Ca, Fe). The silica and Fe-oxide-dominated MIR/VNIR spectral signatures exhibited by the hydrothermally altered material in this study are distinct from the sulfate-dominated spectral signatures exhibited by previously studied low-temperature aqueous acid-sulfate weathered basaltic glass. This likely reflects a difference in open vs. closed system weathering, where mobile cations are removed from the altered surfaces in the fumarolic setting. This work provides a unique infrared spectral library that includes martian analog materials that were altered in an active terrestrial solfatara (hydrothermal) setting. Hydrothermal environments are of particular interest as they potentially indicate habitable conditions. Key constraints on the habitability and astrobiological potential of ancient aqueous environments are provided through detection and interpretation of secondary mineral assemblages; thus, spectral detection of fumarolic alteration assemblages observed from this study on Mars would suggest a region that could have hosted a habitable environment.

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