The distribution of clay minerals and their impact on diagenesis in Glen Torridon, Gale crater, Mars

1A.Rudolph et al. (>10)
Journal of Geophysical Research (Planets) (in Press) Link to Article []
1Purdue University, West Lafayette, United States
Published by arrangement with John Wiley & Sons

Glen Torridon (GT) is a recessive-trough feature on the northwestern slope of “Mt. Sharp” in Gale crater, Mars with the highest Fe-/Mg-phyllosilicates abundances detected by the Curiosity rover to date. Understanding the origin of these clay minerals and their relationship with diagenetic processes is critical for reconstructing the nature and habitability of past surface and subsurface environments in Gale crater. We aim to constrain the distribution and extent of diagenesis using compositional and morphological trends observed by visible-to-near infrared reflectance spectra in GT from Mastcam and ChemCam, supported by high-resolution images from the Mars Hand Lens Imager. Spectral features consistent with nontronite and fine-grained red hematite are ubiquitous throughout lower GT, and are strongest where diagenetic features are limited, suggesting that both were formed early, before burial. Diagenetic features increase in both abundance and diversity farther up-section, and we observe morphologic evidence for multiple episodes of diagenesis, with the edge of a diagenetic front partially preserved in the middle stratigraphic member, Knockfarril Hill. Near the contact between GT and the overlying Greenheugh pediment capping unit, we observe a lack of clay minerals with signatures consistent instead with coarse-grained gray hematite, likely formed through late-diagenetic alteration. We hypothesize that the sandstone-dominant Stimson formation acted as a conduit for diagenetic fluid flow into the area and that the clay-rich impermeable GT slowed the flow of those fluids, leading to enhanced alteration surrounding the clay-rich portions of GT, including within the nearby Vera Rubin ridge.


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