Geology and mineralogy of the Auki Crater, Tyrrhena Terra, Mars: A possible post impact-induced hydrothermal system

1F.G. Carrozzo, 2G. Di Achille, 3F. Salese, 1F. Altieri, 1G. Bellucci
Icarus (in Press) Link to Article [http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.icarus.2016.09.001]
1Istituto di Astrofisica e Planetologia Spaziali, INAF, Rome, Italy
2Osservatorio Astronomico di Teramo, INAF, Teramo, Italy
3International Research School of Planetary Sciences, Dipartimento di Ingegneria e Geologia, Università Gabriele D’Annunzio, Pescara, Italy
Copyright Elsevier

A variety of hydrothermal environments have been documented in terrestrial impact structures. Due to both past water interactions and meteoritic bombardment on the surface of Mars, several authors have predicted various scenarios that include the formation of hydrothermal systems. Geological and mineralogical evidence of past hydrothermal activity have only recently been found on Mars. Here, we present a geological and mineralogical study of the Auki Crater using the spectral and visible imagery data acquired by the CRISM (Compact Reconnaissance Imaging Spectrometer for Mars), CTX (Context Camera) and HiRISE (High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment) instruments on board the NASA MRO mission.

The Auki Crater is a complex crater that is ∼38 km in diameter located in Tyrrhena Terra (96.8°E and 15.7°S) and shows a correlation between its mineralogy and morphology. The presence of minerals, such as smectite, silica, zeolite, serpentine, carbonate and chlorite, associated with morphological structures, such as mounds, polygonal terrains, fractures and veins, suggests that the Auki Crater may have hosted a post impact-induced hydrothermal system. Although the distribution of hydrated minerals in and around the central uplift and the stratigraphic relationships of some morphological units could also be explained by the excavation and exhumation of carbonate-rich bedrock units as a consequence of crater formation, we favor the hypothesis of impact-induced hydrothermal circulation within fractures and subsequent mineral deposition. The hydrothermal system could have been active for a relatively long period of time after the impact, thus producing a potential transient habitable environment.

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