Investigating the origin of gypsum in Olympia Undae: Characterizing the mineralogy of the basal unit

Icarus (in Press) Link to Article []
1Department of Earth, Environmental, and Planetary Sciences, Brown University, Providence, RI 02912, United States of America
2NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, United States of America
Copyright Elsevier

The Olympia Undae sand sea contains the largest known deposit of gypsum discovered on the surface of Mars. The origin of this gypsum, a hydrated sulfate mineral requiring liquid water for its formation, remains largely unconstrained. We examine the hypothesis that gypsum was derived from the early-Amazonian aged Basal Unit, which is suggested to contain hydrated sulfates. Previous attempts to detect hydrated sulfates in the Basal Unit using CRISM and OMEGA data have been largely inconclusive. In this paper, we characterize the hydrated sulfate mineralogy of the Basal Unit using the Guided Endmember Extraction (GEEn) method which can detect target mineral spectra in mixed environments that obscure absorptions characteristic of certain minerals. In this paper, we outline a novel workflow for the application of GEEn to a set of CRISM images from the Olympia Cavi region and present spectral evidence for the presence of polyhydrated sulfates in the Basal Unit. We validate the applied GEEn workflow using CRISM data from various regions on Mars where sulfates have previously been detected. Non-linear mixture modeling is used to determine that spectra of the Basal Unit are best modeled as a spectral mixture of water-ice, sand/dust, mafic dune material, gypsum, and polyhydrated magnesium sulfate⁎. These sulfate detections could indicate the presence of liquid water in the polar region during the Amazonian.1


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