Reconstruction of pH, redox condition, and concentrations of major components in ancient liquid water from the Karasburg member, Murray formation, Gale Crater, Mars

1Keisuke Fukushi,1,2Yasuhito Sekine,3Elizabeth B.Rampe
Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta (in Press) Link to Article []
1Institute of Nature and Environmental Technology, Kanazawa University, Kakuma, Kanazawa, Ishikawa 920-1192 Japan
2Earth-Life Science Institute, Tokyo Institute of Technology, 2-12-1 Ookayama, Meguro-ku, Tokyo 152-8550 Japan
3Astromaterials Research and Exploration Science Division, NASA Johnson Space Center, Houston, TX77058, USA
Copyright Elsevier

Mars once possessed liquid water on its surface. In investigations of aqueous conditions on early Mars, the Mars Science Laboratory rover Curiosity has provided mineralogical and geochemical data from lacustrine sediments of Gale Crater, site of a former lake. Recently, the top-down method for quantitative reconstruction of the chemical parameters of ancient pore water, based on exchangeable cation compositions in smectite and secondary minerals, was developed and applied to the Yellowknife Bay sediments in Gale Crater. Here we report the application of this method to lacustrine sediment from the Quela drill site in Gale Crater, in the Karasburg member of the Murray formation. The results show that the final pore water to interact with the sediments had the following chemistry: pH = 3.6–5.6, Eh > 0.22 V, molality of Na ({Na}) = 0.14–2.2 mol/kg, {K} = 0.0080–0.31 mol/kg, {Ca} = 0.021–0.21 mol/kg, {Mg} < 0.14 mol/kg, {Fe(II)} < 0.063 mol/kg, {Cl} = 0.096–2.6 mol/kg and {SO4} = 0.048–0.33 mol/kg. At two adjacent drill sites (Marimba and Sebina), the comparable mineral assemblages and smectite interlayer compositions imply that they have water chemistry similar to that of the Quela sediment. The inferred pore water was undersaturated with respect to halite by an order of magnitude, although the sediment contains halite. This suggests that the final water in the Quela sediment disappeared by freezing and sublimation rather than evaporation. One interpretation of the high Na and Cl concentrations of the final pore water at Quela is that the sediment was deposited in an arid climate at around 3.5 Ga. The high salinity of the final pore water at Quela relative to that at Yellowknife Bay suggests that climate may have shifted from semi-arid when the Yellowknife Bay formation was deposited to arid when the Karasburg member was deposited. Alternatively, the high salinity at Quela suggests that the post-depositional fluids at 2–3 Ga was enriched in Na. In contrast to low Na in the post-depositional fluids in the underlying Yellowknife Bay, the high salinity of the post-depositional fluids of the Quela suggests different origin and/or timing of the re-wetting events between these two sites. The acidic pH and high Eh suggest that the Quela sediment was intensively affected by oxidizing and acidic post-depositional fluids. The pH of the final pore water would not have allowed the preservation of Ca and Mg carbonates under attainable CO2 partial pressures, which is consistent with the scenario of carbonate dissolution by acidic post-depositional fluids on Mars.


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