Early diagenesis at and below Vera Rubin ridge, Gale crater, Mars

S. M.R. Turner* (Corresponding Author), S. P. Schwenzer, J. C. Bridges, E. B. Rampe, C. C. Bedford, C. N. Achilles, A. C. McAdam, N. Mangold, L. J. Hicks, J. Parnell, A. A. Fraeman, M. H. Reed

*Corresponding author for this work

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Data returned by NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity rover showed evidence for abundant secondary materials, including Fe-oxides, phyllosilicates, and an amorphous component on and below Vera Rubin ridge in the Murray formation. We used equilibrium thermochemical modeling to test the hypothesis that altered sediments were deposited as detrital igneous grains and subsequently underwent diagenesis. Chemical compositions of the Murray formations’ altered components were calculated using data returned by the chemistry and mineralogy X-ray diffraction instrument and the alpha particle X-ray spectrometer on board Curiosity. Reaction of these alteration compositions with a CO2-poor and oxidizing dilute aqueous solution was modeled at 25–100 °C, with 10–50% Fe3+/Fetot of the host rock. The modeled alteration assemblages included abundant phyllosilicates and Fe-oxides at water-to-rock ratios >100. Modeled alteration abundances were directly comparable to observed abundances of hematite and clay minerals at a water-to-rock ratio of 10,000, for system temperatures of 50–100 °C with fluid pH ranging from 7.9 to 9.3. Modeling results suggest that the hematite–clay mineral assemblage is primarily the result of enhanced groundwater flow compared to the Sheepbed mudstone observed at Yellowknife Bay, and underwent further, localized alteration to produce the mineralogy observed by Curiosity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1905-1932
Number of pages28
JournalMeteoritics and Planetary Science
Issue number10
Early online date26 Sept 2021
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
SMRT, SPS, and JCB were funded by UK Space Agency grant ST/S001522/1. CCB was funded through the STFC doctoral training grant to the OU. ACM acknowledges funding support from the NASA ROSES MSL Participating Scientist Program. Unless stated otherwise, mineralogical and chemical data used in the modeling from the Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity rover are from the NASA PDS. The authors would like to thank Jim Palandri for CHIM‐XPT access and support. Support from the scientists, engineers, colleagues in operations roles, and staff of NASA Mars Science Laboratory Mission is gratefully acknowledged. SMRT would like to thank Nisha Ramkissoon for thermochemical modeling discussions. This manuscript benefitted from reviews by Patrick Gasda, Allan Treiman, and Gordon Osinski. Previous versions of this manuscript benefitted from reviews by Benjamin Tutolo, Jake Crandall, and three anonymous reviewers.

Data Availability Statement

As per funding requirements, data necessary to reproduce the thermochemical modeling results shown in this paper are available on The Open University data repository (https://doi.org/10.21954/ou.rd.14892132).

Additional supporting information may be found in the online version of this article.


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