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Formation of Magnesium Carbonates on Earth and Implications for Mars

Scheller, Eva L. and Swindle, Carl and Grotzinger, John and Barnhart, Holly and Bhattacharjee, Surjyendu and Ehlmann, Bethany L. and Farley, Ken and Fischer, Woodward W. and Greenberger, Rebecca and Ingalls, Miquela and Martin, Peter E. and Osorio‐Rodriguez, Daniela and Smith, Ben P. (2021) Formation of Magnesium Carbonates on Earth and Implications for Mars. Journal of Geophysical Research. Planets, 126 (7). Art. No. e2021JE006828. ISSN 2169-9097. doi:10.1029/2021je006828.

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Magnesium carbonates have been identified within the landing site of the Perseverance rover mission. This study reviews terrestrial analog environments and textural, mineral assemblage, isotopic, and elemental analyses that have been applied to establish formation conditions of magnesium carbonates. Magnesium carbonates form in five distinct settings: ultramafic rock-hosted veins, the matrix of carbonated peridotite, nodules in soil, alkaline lake, and playa deposits, and as diagenetic replacements within lime—and dolostones. Dominant textures include fine-grained or microcrystalline veins, nodules, and crusts. Microbial influences on formation are recorded in thrombolites, stromatolites, crinkly, and pustular laminites, spheroids, and filamentous microstructures. Mineral assemblages, fluid inclusions, and carbon, oxygen, magnesium, and clumped isotopes of carbon and oxygen have been used to determine the sources of carbon, magnesium, and fluid for magnesium carbonates as well as their temperatures of formation. Isotopic signatures in ultramafic rock-hosted magnesium carbonates reveal that they form by either low-temperature meteoric water infiltration and alteration, hydrothermal alteration, or metamorphic processes. Isotopic compositions of lacustrine magnesium carbonate record precipitation from lake water, evaporation processes, and ambient formation temperatures. Assessment of these features with similar analytical techniques applied to returned Martian samples can establish whether carbonates on ancient Mars were formed at high or low temperature conditions in the surface or subsurface through abiotic or biotic processes. The timing of carbonate formation processes could be constrained by ¹⁴⁷Sm-¹⁴³Nd isochron, U-Pb concordia, ²⁰⁷Pb-²⁰⁶Pb isochron radiometric dating as well as ³He, ²¹Ne, ²²Ne, or ³⁶Ar surface exposure dating of returned Martian magnesium carbonate samples.

Item Type:Article
Related URLs:
URLURL TypeDescription
Scheller, Eva L.0000-0002-9981-5802
Swindle, Carl0000-0002-8706-9398
Grotzinger, John0000-0001-9324-1257
Barnhart, Holly0000-0002-0842-9464
Bhattacharjee, Surjyendu0000-0002-3924-0357
Ehlmann, Bethany L.0000-0002-2745-3240
Farley, Ken0000-0002-7846-7546
Fischer, Woodward W.0000-0002-8836-3054
Greenberger, Rebecca0000-0003-1583-0261
Ingalls, Miquela0000-0002-7451-2944
Martin, Peter E.0000-0003-4243-2090
Osorio‐Rodriguez, Daniela0000-0001-6676-4124
Smith, Ben P.0000-0003-3189-8717
Additional Information:© 2021. The Authors. This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. Issue Online: 12 July 2021; Version of Record online: 12 July 2021; Accepted manuscript online: 22 June 2021; Manuscript accepted: 29 May 2021; Manuscript revised: 28 May 2021; Manuscript received: 25 January 2021. This project was supported by the Simons Foundation grant “Planetary Context of Habitability and Exobiology,” and the Simons Foundation Collaboration on the Origins of Life. E. L. Scheller was supported by NESSF grant #80NSSC18K1255. C. Swindle was supported by NSF Graduate Research Fellowship under grant #DGE-1745301. The authors thank Ken Williford, Emily Cardarelli, Paulo Vasconcelos, Cecilia Sanders, Ted Present, Dustin Morris, Peter Kelemen, and Bradley Garczynski for invaluable discussions. They thank all authors and editors for their permission to reuse images for figures. They extend special thanks and acknowledgments to Pablo García del Real for kindly providing unpublished, original pictures for this study and for invaluable discussion. Last, they thank Tanja Bosak, Frieder Klein, and an anonymous reviewer for their insightful reviews and suggestions that led to the improvement of the study. The authors declare no conflicts of interest relevant to this study. Data Availability Statement: All recognition of reused images should be given to original authors with references that are denoted on each figure. Spectral data from Figure 1 can be found in Mandon et al. (2020) and Ehlmann et al. (2009). Isotopic data from Figure 6 is a compilation of data color coded according to references as given in the figure legend. A table of data has been uploaded to the Caltech Data Repository: 10.22002/D1.1971.
Funding AgencyGrant Number
Simons FoundationUNSPECIFIED
NASA Earth and Space Science Fellowship80NSSC18K1255
NSF Graduate Research FellowshipDGE‐1745301
Subject Keywords:carbonate; magnesite; Mars; Mars2020; Perseverance; review
Issue or Number:7
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20210630-151049458
Persistent URL:
Official Citation:Scheller, E. L., Swindle, C., Grotzinger, J., Barnhart, H., Bhattacharjee, S., Ehlmann, B. L., et al. (2021). Formation of magnesium carbonates on Earth and implications for Mars. Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets, 126, e2021JE006828.
Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:109668
Deposited By: Tony Diaz
Deposited On:30 Jun 2021 22:45
Last Modified:14 Jul 2021 21:22

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