Tuesday, May 17, 2016

There Were Multiple Watery Episodes in the Nili Fossae on Mars

Elevated bulk-silica exposures and evidence for multiple aqueous alteration episodes in Nili Fossae, Mars


Amador et al


The Nili Fossae region of Mars contains some of the most mineralogically diverse bedrock on the planet. Previous studies have established three main stratigraphic units in the region: a phyllosilicate-bearing basement rock, a variably altered olivine-rich basalt, and a capping rock. Here, we present evidence for the localized alteration of the northeast Nili Fossae capping unit, previously considered to be unaltered. Both near-infrared and thermal-infrared spectral datasets were analyzed, including the application of a method for determining the relative abundance of bulk-silica (SiO2) over surfaces using thermal emission imaging system (THEMIS) images. Elevated bulk-silica exposures are present on surfaces previously defined as unaltered capping rock. Given the lack of spectral evidence for phyllosilicate, hydrated silica, or quartz phases coincident with the newly detected exposures—the elevated bulk-silica may have formed under a number of aqueous scenarios, including as a product of the carbonation of the underlying olivine-rich basalt under moderate water: rock scenarios and temperatures. Regardless of formation mechanism, the detection of elevated bulk-silica exposures in the Nili Fossae capping unit extends the history of aqueous activity in the region to include all three of the main stratigraphic units.

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