Synergistic ground and orbital observations of iron oxides on Mt. Sharp and Vera Rubin ridge

1A.A.Fraeman et al. (>10)
Journal of Geophysical Research, Planets (in Press) Link to Article [https://doi.org/10.1029/2019JE006294]
1Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, CA, USA
Published by arrangement with John Wiley & Sons

Visible/short‐wave infrared spectral data from the Compact Reconnaissance Imaging Spectrometer for Mars (CRISM) show absorptions attributed to hematite at Vera Rubin ridge (VRR), a topographic feature on northwest Mt. Sharp. The goals of this study are to determine why absorptions caused by ferric iron are strongly visible from orbit at VRR, and to improve interpretation of CRISM data throughout lower Mt. Sharp. These goals are achieved by analyzing coordinated CRISM and in situ spectral data along the Curiosity Mars rover’s traverse. VRR bedrock within areas that have the deepest ferric absorptions in CRISM data also have the deepest ferric absorptions measured in situ . This suggests strong ferric absorptions are visible from orbit at VRR because of the unique spectral properties of VRR bedrock. Dust and mixing with basaltic sand additionally inhibit the ability to measure ferric absorptions in bedrock stratigraphically below VRR from orbit. There are two implications of these findings: (1) Ferric absorptions in CRISM data initially dismissed as noise could be real, and ferric phases are more widespread in lower Mt. Sharp than previously reported, (2) Patches with the deepest ferric absorptions in CRISM data are, like VRR, reflective of deeper absorptions in the bedrock. One model to explain this spectral variability is late‐stage diagenetic fluids that changed the grain size of ferric phases, deepening absorptions. Curiosity’s experience highlights the strengths of using CRISM data for spectral absorptions and associated mineral detections, and the caveats in using these data for geologic interpretations and strategic path planning tools.

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