Mineralogy of Vera Rubin Ridge from the Mars Science Laboratory CheMin Instrument

1E.B.Rampe et al. (>10)
Journal of Geophysical Research (Planets) (in Press) Link to Article [https://doi.org/10.1029/2019JE006306]
1NASA Johnson Space Center, Houston, TX, USA
Published by arrangement with John Wiley & Son

Vera Rubin ridge (VRR) is an erosion‐resistant feature on the northwestern slope of Mount Sharp in Gale crater, Mars, and orbital visible/short‐wave infrared measurements indicate it contains red‐colored hematite. The Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity rover performed an extensive campaign on VRR to study its mineralogy, geochemistry, and sedimentology to determine the depositional and diagenetic history of the ridge and constrain the processes by which the hematite could have formed. X‐ray diffraction (XRD) data from the CheMin instrument of four samples drilled on and below VRR demonstrate differences in iron, phyllosilicate, and sulfate mineralogy and hematite grain size. Hematite is common across the ridge, and its detection in a gray‐colored outcrop suggested localized regions with coarse‐grained hematite, which commonly forms from warm fluids. Broad XRD peaks for hematite in one sample below VRR and the abundance of FeOT in the amorphous component suggest the presence of nano‐crystalline hematite and amorphous Fe oxides/oxyhydroxides. Well‐crystalline akaganeite and jarosite are present in two samples drilled from VRR, indicating at least limited alteration by acid‐saline fluids. Collapsed nontronite is present below VRR, but samples from VRR contain phyllosilicate with d(001) = 9.6 Å, possibly from ferripyrophyllite or an acid‐altered smectite. The most likely cementing agents creating the ridge are hematite and opaline silica. We hypothesize late diagenesis can explain much of the mineralogical variation on the ridge, where multiple fluid episodes with variable pH, salinity, and temperature altered the rocks, causing the precipitation and crystallization of phases that are not otherwise in equilibrium.

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