An experimental study of the alteration of basalt on the surface of Venus

Icarus (in Press) Link to Article []
1Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, University of Tennessee at Knoxville, 1621 Cumberland Avenue, 602 Strong Hall, Knoxville, TN 37996, United States of America
2Lunar and Planetary Institute, 3600 Bay Area Blvd, Houston, TX 77058, United States of America
3NASA Johnson Space Center, 2101 E NASA Pkwy, Houston, TX 77058, United States of America
4Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, NY, United States of America
5Dept. Earth, Environmental, & Planetary Sciences, Brown University, Providence, RI 02912, United States of America
Copyright Elsevier

Characterizing the surface of Venus has been complicated by its thick atmosphere and caustic surface conditions (~470 °C, 90 bars). Several approaches, including the collection of spectral data, thermodynamic modelling, lander missions, and surface weathering laboratory experiments have progressed our view of what lies at the surface. However, surface-atmosphere interactions remain somewhat unconstrained and interpretations of the spectral data rely on an understanding of the surface-atmosphere alteration. We used a cold-seal pressure vessel apparatus pressurized with pure CO2 gas and both synthetic and natural glassy basalts specimens to simulate chemical weathering on the surface of Venus for a duration of two weeks. The extent of alteration was described from the surface of samples to depth using Rutherford Backscatter Spectroscopy (RBS), scanning electron microscopy (SEM), and transmission electron microscopy (TEM) techniques. We describe the alteration zones of reacted basalt specimens and report an enrichment of divalent cation species at the near surfaces of basalts; Ca2+ was enriched by ~5 wt% and Fe2+ was enriched by ~1–2 wt%. The enrichment at the near surface favors the production of iron (Fe) oxide(s) and carbonates on the surfaces, which form discontinuous coatings on all reacted samples in two weeks duration. Our results aid in the interpretation of radar emissivity data by constraining which alteration products should be present on the surface and suggesting timeframes necessary for their detection. Assuming that radar emissivity is able to discern weathered basalt, especially those dominated by carbonates and/or semiconducting minerals Fe oxide(s), our results suggest that basalts at Idunn Mons in Imdr Regio previously thought to be anywhere from 2.5 million to a few years old (Smrekar et al., 2010; D’Incecco et al., 2017; Filiberto et al., 2020; Cutler et al., 2020) could instead be as young as 65,000 years to 110,000 years depending on basalt type.


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