The Italian Solfatara as an analog for Mars fumarolic alteration

1Jessica Flahaut,2Janice L. Bishop,2,3Simone Silvestro,4,5Dario Tedesco,6Isabelle Daniel,7Damien Loizeau
American Mineralogist 104, 1565-1577 Link to Article [https://doi.org/10.2138/am-2019-6899]
1Centre de Recherches Pétrographiques et Géochimiques (CRPG), UMR7358 CNRS-Université de Lorraine, 15 rue Notre-Dame des Pauvres, 54500 Vandœuvre-lès-Nancy, France. Orcid 0000-0002-0866-8086
2Carl Sagan Center, The SETI Institute, Mountain View, California 94043, U.S.A.
3INAF—Osservatorio Astronomico di Capodimonte, Napoli, Italy
4Campania University—Luigi Vanvitelli, Caserta, Italy
5Osservatorio Vesuviano—Istituto Nazionale di Geochimica e Vulcanologia, Napoli, Italy
6Université de Lyon, Université Lyon 1, Ens de Lyon, CNRS, UMR 5276, Lab. de Géologie de Lyon, Villeurbanne F-69622, France. Orcid 0000-0002-1448-7919
7IAS, CNRS/Université Paris Sud, 91400 Orsay, France
Copyright: The Mineralogical Society of America

The first definitive evidence for continental vents on Mars is the in situ detection of amorphous silica-rich outcrops by the Mars Exploration Rover Spirit. These outcrops have been tentatively interpreted as the result of either acid sulfate leaching in fumarolic environments or direct precipitation from hot springs. Such environments represent prime targets for upcoming astrobiology missions but remain difficult to identify with certainty, especially from orbit. To contribute to the identification of fumaroles and hot spring deposits on Mars, we surveyed their characteristics at the analog site of the Solfatara volcanic crater in central Italy. Several techniques of mineral identification (VNIR spectroscopy, Raman spectroscopy, XRD) were used both in the field and in the laboratory on selected samples. The faulted crater walls showed evidence of acid leaching and alteration into the advanced argillic-alunitic facies, with colorful deposits containing alunite, jarosite, and/or hematite. Sublimates containing various Al and Fe hydroxyl-sulfates were observed around the active fumarole vents at 90 °C. One vent at 160 °C was characterized by different sublimates enriched in As and Hb sulfide species. Amorphous silica and alunite assemblages that are diagnostic of silicic alteration were also observed at the Fangaia mud pots inside the crater. A wide range of minerals was identified at the 665 m diameter Solfatara crater that is diagnostic of acid-steam heated alteration of a trachytic, porous bedrock. Importantly, this mineral diversity was captured at each site investigated with at least one of the techniques used, which lends confidence for the recognition of similar environments with the next-generation Mars rovers.

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