Gypsum, bassanite, and anhydrite at Gale crater, Mars

1David T. Vaniman et al. (>10)
American Mineralogist 103, 1011-1020 Link to Article []
1Planetary Science Institute, Tucson, Arizona 85719, U.S.A.
Copyright: The Mineralogical Society of America

Analyses by the CheMin X-ray diffraction instrument on Mars Science Laboratory show that gypsum, bassanite, and anhydrite are common minerals at Gale crater. Warm conditions (∼6 to 30 °C) within CheMin drive gypsum dehydration to bassanite; measured surface temperatures and modeled temperature depth profiles indicate that near-equatorial warm-season surface heating can also cause gypsum dehydration to bassanite. By accounting for instrumental dehydration effects we are able to quantify the in situ abundances of Ca-sulfate phases in sedimentary rocks and in eolian sands at Gale crater. All three Ca-sulfate minerals occur together in some sedimentary rocks and their abundances and associations vary stratigraphically. Several Ca-sulfate diagenetic events are indicated. Salinity-driven anhydrite precipitation at temperatures below ∼50 °C may be supported by co-occurrence of more soluble salts. An alternative pathway to anhydrite via dehydration might be possible, but if so would likely be limited to warmer near-equatorial dark eolian sands that presently contain only anhydrite. The polyphase Ca-sulfate associations at Gale crater reflect limited opportunities for equilibration, and they presage mixed salt associations anticipated in higher strata that are more sulfate-rich and may mark local or global environmental change. Mineral transformations within CheMin also provide a better understanding of changes that might occur in samples returned from Mars.


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