Spectral, Compositional, and Physical Properties of the Upper Murray Formation and Vera Rubin ridge, Gale Crater, Mars

1S.R.Jacob et al., (>10)
Journal of Geophysical Research (Planets) Link to Article [https://doi.org/10.1029/2019JE006290]
1Arizona State University
Published by arrangement with John Wiley & Sons

During 2018 and 2019, the Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity rover investigated the chemistry, morphology, and stratigraphy of Vera Rubin ridge (VRR). Using orbital data from the Compact Reconnaissance Imaging Spectrometer for Mars, scientists attributed the strong 860 nm signal associated with VRR to the presence of red crystalline hematite. However, Mastcam multispectral data and CheMin X‐ray diffraction (XRD) measurements show that the depth of the 860 nm absorption is negatively correlated with the abundance of red crystalline hematite, suggesting other mineralogical or physical parameters are also controlling the 860 nm absorption. Here, we examine Mastcam and ChemCam passive reflectance spectra from VRR and other locations to link the depth, position, and presence or absence of iron‐related mineralogic absorption features to the XRD‐derived rock mineralogy. Correlating CheMin mineralogy to spectral parameters showed that the ~860 nm absorption has a strong positive correlation with the abundance of ferric phyllosilicates. New laboratory reflectance measurements of powdered mineral mixtures can reproduce trends found in Gale crater. We hypothesize that variations in the 860 nm absorption feature in Mastcam and ChemCam observations of VRR materials is a result of three factors: (1) variations in ferric phyllosilicate abundance due to its ~800‐1000 nm absorption; (2) variations in clinopyroxene abundance because of its band maximum at ~860 nm; and (3) the presence of red crystalline hematite because of its absorption centered at 860 nm. We also show that relatively small changes in Ca‐sulfate abundance is one potential cause of the erosional resistance and geomorphic expression of VRR.

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