Constraining Alteration Processes Along the Siccar Point Group Unconformity, Gale Crater, Mars: Results from the Sample Analysis at Mars Instrument

1B.Sutter et al. (>10)
Journal of Geophysical Research (Planets) Link to Article []
1Jacobs Technology, NASA Johnson Space Center, Houston, TX, USA
Publishes by arrangement with JohnWiley & Sons

Results from the Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM)-evolved gas analyzer (EGA) on board the Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity rover constrained the alteration history and habitability potential of rocks sampled across the Siccar Point unconformity in Gale crater.
The Glasgow member (Gm) mudstone just below the unconformity had evidence of acid sulfate or Si-poor brine alteration of Fe-smectite to Fe amorphous phases, leaching loss of Fe-Mg-sulfate and exchange of unfractionated sulfur 34S (δ34S=2±7‰) with enriched 34S (20±5‰, V-CDT). Carbon abundances did not significantly change (322-661 μgC/g) consistent with carbon stabilization by amorphous Al- and Fe-hydroxide phases. The Gm mudstone had no detectable oxychlorine and extremely low nitrate. Nitrate (0.06 wt.% NO3), oxychlorine (0.13 wt% ClO4), high C (1472 μg C/g), and low Fe/Mg-sulfate concentration (0.24 wt.% SO3) depleted in 34S (δ34S = -27‰ ± 7), were detected in the Stimson formation (Sf) eolian sandstone above the unconformity. Redox disequilibrium through the detections of iron sulfide and sulfate supported limited aqueous processes in the Sf sandstone. Si-poor brines or acidic fluids altered the Gm mudstone just below the unconformity but did not alter underlying Gm mudstones further from the contact. Chemical differences between the Sf and Gm rocks suggested that fluid interaction was minimal between the Sf and Gm rocks. These results suggested that the Gm rocks were altered by subsurface fluids after the Sf placement. Aqueous processes along the unconformity could have provided habitable conditions and in some cases, C and N levels could have supported heterotrophic microbial populations.


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