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Published September 1, 2015 | public
Journal Article Open

Evidence in Tissint for recent subsurface water on Mars


We report unambiguous chemical evidence for subsurface water activity in the martian crust at <600 Ma based on the data from Tissint, a fresh martian meteorite fall with minimal terrestrial weathering. The impact-melt pockets in Tissint contain abundant volatiles (H_2O, CO_2, F, and Cl), and their concentrations are positively correlated with each other. Higher H_2O concentrations also accompany higher deuterium contents. These correlations suggest mixing between two volatile sources. The first source is H_2O in the precursor basalt inherited from martian magma. Magmatic H_2O in the basalt had low deuterium concentration and was likely stored in the nominally anhydrous minerals. This source contributed little CO_2 or halogens to the impact melts. The second source is inferred to be aqueous-alteration products introduced to the basalt by water activity after the basalt erupted. These alteration materials contributed more volatiles to the impact melts than the magmatic source, and had high deuterium abundance, reflecting isotope equilibrium with recent martian atmosphere. The water activities occurred beneath the martian surface after ∼600 Ma (crystallization age), but before ∼1 Ma (ejection age). The chemical and isotopic signatures of the alteration products in Tissint resemble previously known martian samples associated with old water activities on Mars, which can be traced back to ∼4.2 billion years ago (e.g., the mudstone at Gale Crater). This similarity in chemistry and the wide age-span indicate that such water activities were common on Mars throughout its history, which had the potential to form habitable environment. However, the rarity of the volatile-rich zone in Tissint suggests that Martian crustal aqueous processes, where they have occurred are generally limited in their extent of water–rock reaction.

Additional Information

© 2015 Elsevier B.V. Received 23 January 2015; Received in revised form 30 April 2015; Accepted 3 May 2015. Authors Y.C. and Y.L. are supported by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, which is managed by the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) under a contract with NASA. We thank Chris Webster for his comments on an earlier draft. We thank Tamsin Mather, Tomohiro Usui, and one anonymous reviewer for their constructive comments. Y.L. and L.A.T. acknowledge NASA Cosmochemistry grants NNN13D465T and NNX11AG58G, respectively. Funding from NSF grant EAR-1322082 is acknowledged by G.R.R. The EPMA and SEM were performed at the Caltech Geological and Planetary Science Division Analytical Facility, which is supported in part by NSF grants EAR-0318518 and DMR-00800065. Analysis by SIMS was done at the Caltech Microanalysis Center that is partially supported by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.

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August 22, 2023
August 22, 2023