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Mineralogy and stratigraphy of phyllosilicate‐bearing and dark mantling units in the greater Mawrth Vallis/west Arabia Terra area: constraints on geological origin

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Abstract (summary)

Analyses of MRO/CRISM images of the greater Mawrth Vallis region of Mars affirm the presence of two primary phyllosilicate assemblages throughout a region ∼1000 × 1000 km. These two units consist of an Fe/Mg‐phyllosilicate assemblage overlain by an Al‐phyllosilicate and hydrated silica assemblage. The lower unit contains Fe/Mg‐ smectites, sometimes combined with one or more of these other Fe/Mg‐phyllosilicates: serpentine, chlorite, biotite, and/or vermiculite. It is more than 100 m thick and finely layered at meter scales. The upper unit includes Al‐smectite, kaolin group minerals, and hydrated silica. It is tens of meters thick and finely layered as well. A common phyllosilicate stratigraphy and morphology is observed throughout the greater region wherever erosional windows are present. This suggests that the geologic processes forming these units must have occurred on at least a regional scale. Sinuous ridges (interpreted to be inverted channels) and narrow channels cut into the upper clay‐bearing unit suggesting that aqueous processes were prevalent after, and possibly during, the deposition of the layered units. We propose that layered units may have been deposited at Mawrth Vallis and then subsequently altered to form the hydrated units. The Fe/Mg‐phyllosilicate assemblage is consistent with hydrothermal alteration or pedogenesis of mafic to ultramafic rocks. The Al‐phyllosilicate/hydrated silica unit may have formed through alteration of felsic material or via leaching of basaltic material through pedogenic alteration or a mildly acidic environment. These phyllosilicate‐bearing units are overlain by a darker, relatively unaltered, and indurated material that has probably experienced a complex geological history.

Publication Information

Noe Dobrea, E. Z., Bishop, J. L., McKeown, N. K., Fu, R., Rossi, C., Heinlein, C., Hanus, V., Michalski, J. R., Swayze, G. A., Poulet, F., Bibring, J.-P., Mustard, J. F., Ehlmann, B. L., Arvidson, R. E., Murchie, S. L., McEwen, A. S., Malaret, E., Hash, C., & the CRISM Team. (2010). Mineralogy and Stratigraphy of Phyllosilicate-bearing and Dark Mantling Units in the Greater Mawrth Vallis/ West Arabia Terra Area: Constraints on Geological Origin. Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets, 115(E7), E00D19. doi: 10.1029/2009JE003351.


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