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Tridymite in a lacustrine mudstone in Gale Crater, Mars: Evidence for an explosive silicic eruption during the Hesperian

Payré, V. and Siebach, K. L. and Thorpe, M. T. and Antoshechkina, P. and Rampe, E. B. (2022) Tridymite in a lacustrine mudstone in Gale Crater, Mars: Evidence for an explosive silicic eruption during the Hesperian. Earth and Planetary Science Letters, 594 . Art. No. 117694. ISSN 0012-821X. doi:10.1016/j.epsl.2022.117694.

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The unexpected detection of ∼16 wt.% monoclinic tridymite, a high-temperature silica polymorph, within an otherwise lacustrine mudstone in Gale crater, Mars raises significant questions about its formation and the extent of magmatic evolution on that planet. The rock sample, analyzed by the X-ray diffractometer onboard the Curiosity rover, also contained feldspar, cristobalite, and opaline silica (±Si-glass). Monoclinic tridymite is extremely rare on Earth, and has only been discovered in silicic volcanic environments, high-temperature impact settings, and extraterrestrial rocks. We review the most common formation pathways of natural tridymite and run thermodynamical models to investigate possible formation mechanisms. We consider the broader context of the sample to propose a formation and transport mechanism based on: (1) the mineralogical assemblage of the mudstone and rocks in the vicinity, (2) the composition of the mudstone layer, and (3) the overall geological context. Based on the large amount of tridymite, the high SiO₂ and low Al₂O₃ concentration of the mudstone, and the low temperature context within distal lacustrine mudstone, we propose that an explosive eruption released Si-rich ashes, which were deposited into Gale crater's watershed as a tridymite-rich ashfall along with cristobalite, feldspar, Ti-oxide, and Si-rich glass, when Gale was still a lake (Hesperian). The dissolution of Si-rich glass and mineral sorting during transport would have concentrated tridymite, caused opaline silica precipitation, and relatively lowered the Al₂O₃ concentration. This scenario implies that explosive volcanism on Mars occurred during the Hesperian and might not be restricted to basaltic eruptions, revealing the complexity of Mars magmatism.

Item Type:Article
Related URLs:
URLURL TypeDescription Information Information
Payré, V.0000-0002-7052-0795
Siebach, K. L.0000-0002-6628-6297
Thorpe, M. T.0000-0002-1235-9016
Antoshechkina, P.0000-0002-3358-5186
Rampe, E. B.0000-0002-6999-0028
Additional Information:© 2022 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Under a Creative Commons license - Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International (CC BY-NC 4.0) Received 30 April 2021, Revised 13 June 2022, Accepted 23 June 2022, Available online 19 July 2022, Version of Record 19 July 2022. We are thankful for the productive and fruitful discussions with Dr. J. P. Grotzinger and J. A. Hurowitz. We are grateful for the thorough reviews from the two anonymous reviewers and the editor Dr. W. B. McKinnon. V.P. was funded by the Wiess/Pan fellowship at the department of Earth, Environmental, and Planetary Sciences at Rice University and the Mars Science Laboratory Participating Scientist program from Dr. M. R. Salvatore (Program solicitation NNH15ZDA001N-MSLPSP, grant number: 15-MSLPSP15_2-0051) and Dr. C. S. Edwards (Program solicitations NNH15ZDA001N-MSLPSP and NNH21ZDA001N-MSLPSP, grant numbers: 15-MSLPSP15_0015 and 80NSSC22K0732, respectively). P.A. acknowledges funding for the development of alphaMELTS 2 through a NSF grant EAR-1947616. We are also grateful to NASA for providing the following grants: 15-MSLPSP15_2-0051, 15-MSLPSP15-0015, and 80NSSC22K0732. CRediT authorship contribution statement. V. Payre: Conceptualization, Methodology, Software, Investigation, Resources, Writing, Visualization. K.L. Siebach: Methodology, Supervision, Funding Acquisition, Writing. M.T. Thorpe: Resources, Methodology. P. Antoshechkina: Programming, Validation.: E.B. Rampe: Resources. The authors declare that they have no known competing financial interests or personal relationships that could have appeared to influence the work reported in this paper.
Funding AgencyGrant Number
Rice UniversityUNSPECIFIED
Subject Keywords:silicic explosive eruption; Gale crater lake; Mars; Hesperian; tridymite; felsic magmatism
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20220720-918425000
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Official Citation:V. Payré, K.L. Siebach, M.T. Thorpe, P. Antoshechkina, E.B. Rampe, Tridymite in a lacustrine mudstone in Gale Crater, Mars: Evidence for an explosive silicic eruption during the Hesperian, Earth and Planetary Science Letters, Volume 594, 2022, 117694, ISSN 0012-821X,
Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:115709
Deposited By: George Porter
Deposited On:22 Jul 2022 20:00
Last Modified:22 Jul 2022 20:00

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