Mineralogy and diagenesis of Mars-analog paleosols from eastern Oregon, USA

1Adrian P.Broz,2Joanna Clark,3Brad Sutter,4Doug W.Ming,3ValerieTu,5Briony Horgan,6Lucas C.R.Silva
Icarus (in Press) Link to Article [https://doi.org/10.1016/j.icarus.2022.114965]
1Department of Earth Sciences, University of Oregon, Eugene, OR 97405, United States of America
2Geocontrols Systems – Jacobs JETS Contract, NASA Johnson Space Center, Houston, TX 77058, United States of America
3Jacobs JETS Contract, NASA Johnson Space Center, Houston, TX 77058, United States of America
4NASA Johnson Space Center, Houston, TX 77058, United States of America
5Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Science, Purdue University, IN, 47907, United States of America
6Environmental Studies Program, Department of Geography, University of Oregon, Eugene, OR 97405, United States of America
Copyright Elsevier

Ancient (4.1–3.7-billion-year-old) layered sedimentary rocks on Mars are rich in clay minerals which formed from aqueous alteration of the Martian surface. Many of these sedimentary rocks appear to be composed of vertical sequences of Fe/Mg clay minerals overlain by Al clay minerals that resemble paleosols (ancient, buried soils) from Earth. The types and properties of minerals in paleosols can be used to constrain the environmental conditions during formation to better understand weathering and diagenesis on Mars. This work examines the mineralogy and diagenetic alteration of volcaniclastic paleosols from the Eocene-Oligocene (43–28 Ma) Clarno and John Day Formations in eastern Oregon as a Mars-analog site. Here, paleosols rich in Al phyllosilicates and amorphous colloids overlie paleosols with Fe/Mg smectites that altogether span a sequence of ~ 500 individual profiles across hundreds of meters of vertical stratigraphy. Samples collected from three of these paleosol profiles were analyzed with visible/near-infrared (VNIR) spectroscopy, X-ray diffraction (XRD), and evolved gas analysis (EGA) configured to operate like the SAM-EGA instrument onboard Curiosity Mars Rover. Strongly crystalline Al/Fe dioctahedral phyllosilicates (montmorillonite and nontronite) were the major phases identified in all samples with all methods. Minor phases included the zeolite mineral clinoptilolite, as well as andesine, cristobalite, opal-CT and gypsum. Evolved H2O was detected in all samples and was consistent with adsorbed water and the dehydroxylation of a dioctahedral phyllosilicate, and differences in H2O evolutions between montmorillonite and nontronite were readily observable. Detections of hematite and zeolites suggested paleosols were affected by burial reddening and zeolitization, but absence of illite and chlorite suggest that potash metasomatism and other, more severe diagenetic alterations had not occurred. The high clay mineral content of the observed paleosols (up to 95 wt%) may have minimized diagenetic alteration over geological time scales. Martian paleosols rich in Al and Fe smectites may have also resisted severe diagenetic alteration, which is favorable for future in-situ examination. Results from this work can help differentiate paleosols and weathering profiles from other types of sedimentary rocks in the geological record of Mars.

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