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Multiple stages of aqueous alteration along fractures in mudstone and sandstone strata in Gale Crater, Mars

Yen, A. S. and Ming, D. W. and Vaniman, D. T. and Gellert, R. and Blake, D. F. and Morris, R. V. and Morrison, S. M. and Bristow, T. F. and Chipera, S. J. and Edgett, K. S. and Treiman, A. H. and Clark, B. C. and Downs, R. T. and Farmer, J. D. and Grotzinger, J. P. and Rampe, E. B. and Schmidt, M. E. and Sutter, B. and Thompson, L. M. (2017) Multiple stages of aqueous alteration along fractures in mudstone and sandstone strata in Gale Crater, Mars. Earth and Planetary Science Letters, 471 . pp. 186-198. ISSN 0012-821X.

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The Mars rover Curiosity in Gale crater conducted the first-ever direct chemical and mineralogical comparisons of samples that have clear parent (unaltered) and daughter (altered) relationships. The mineralogy and chemistry of samples within and adjacent to alteration halos in a sandstone formation were established by the Chemistry and Mineralogy (CheMin) X-ray diffraction (XRD) instrument and the Alpha Particle X-ray Spectrometer (APXS), respectively. The Stimson formation sandstones unconformably overlie the Murray mudstone formation and represent the youngest stratigraphic unit explored by Curiosity to date. Aqueous alteration of the parent sandstone resulted in a loss of half of the original crystalline mineral phases and a three-fold increase in X-ray amorphous material. Aqueous fluids extensively leached Mg, Al, Mn, Fe, Ni, Zn and other elements from the parent material, decreased the pyroxene to feldspar ratio by a factor of two, introduced Ca and mixed-cation sulfates, and both passively and actively enriched the silica content. Leaching of Mg, Al, Mn, Fe, Ni and Zn and enrichment of Si and S are also observed in alteration halos in the underlying mudstone. These observations are consistent with infiltration of subsurface fluids, initially acidic and then alkaline, propagating along fractures crosscutting the Stimson sandstone and Murray mudstone. The geochemistry and mineralogy suggest a complicated diagenetic history with multiple stages of aqueous alteration under a variety of environmental conditions (e.g. both low and moderate pH). The formation of these alteration halos post-dates lithification of the sandstones and mudstones and represents one of the youngest hydrogeologic events presently known to have occurred in Gale crater.

Item Type:Article
Related URLs:
URLURL TypeDescription
Ming, D. W.0000-0003-0567-8876
Vaniman, D. T.0000-0001-7661-2626
Gellert, R.0000-0001-7928-834X
Blake, D. F.0000-0002-0834-4487
Bristow, T. F.0000-0001-6725-0555
Edgett, K. S.0000-0001-7197-5751
Treiman, A. H.0000-0002-8073-2839
Clark, B. C.0000-0002-5546-8757
Downs, R. T.0000-0002-8380-7728
Grotzinger, J. P.0000-0001-9324-1257
Rampe, E. B.0000-0002-6999-0028
Sutter, B.0000-0002-3036-170X
Thompson, L. M.0000-0002-5444-952X
Additional Information:© 2017 The Authors. Published by Elsevier B.V. This is an open access article under the CC BY-NC-ND license ( Received 18 January 2017, Revised 12 April 2017, Accepted 17 April 2017, Available online 16 May 2017. We thank the dedicated team of engineers and scientists that makes the Curiosity mission possible. This research was supported by the NASA Mars Science Laboratory Mission. A portion of this work was carried out at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology under a contract with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. We thank the staff of Malin Space Science Systems for production of the Mastcam and MAHLI image products shown herein. We thank an anonymous reviewer and S. Karunatillake for thoughtful comments.
Funding AgencyGrant Number
Subject Keywords:Mars; mineralogy; geochemistry; Curiosity rover; aqueous alteration
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20170517-075942594
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Official Citation:A.S. Yen, D.W. Ming, D.T. Vaniman, R. Gellert, D.F. Blake, R.V. Morris, S.M. Morrison, T.F. Bristow, S.J. Chipera, K.S. Edgett, A.H. Treiman, B.C. Clark, R.T. Downs, J.D. Farmer, J.P. Grotzinger, E.B. Rampe, M.E. Schmidt, B. Sutter, L.M. Thompson, Multiple stages of aqueous alteration along fractures in mudstone and sandstone strata in Gale Crater, Mars, Earth and Planetary Science Letters, Volume 471, 1 August 2017, Pages 186-198, ISSN 0012-821X, (
Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:77523
Deposited By: Tony Diaz
Deposited On:17 May 2017 16:06
Last Modified:09 Mar 2020 13:19

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