The Curiosity rover investigated a topographic structure known as Vera Rubin ridge, associated with a hematite signature in orbital spectra. There, Curiosity encountered mudstones interpreted as lacustrine deposits, conformably overlying the 300 m-thick underlying sedimentary rocks of the Murray formation at the base of Mount Sharp. While the presence of hematite (α-Fe2O3) was confirmed in situ by both Mastcam and ChemCam spectral observations and by the CheMin instrument, neither ChemCam nor APXS observed any significant increase in FeOT (total iron oxide) abundances compared to the rest of the Murray formation. Instead, Curiosity discovered dark-toned diagenetic features displaying anomalously high FeOT abundances, commonly observed in association with light-toned Ca-sulfate veins but also as crystal pseudomorphs in the host rock. These iron-rich diagenetic features are predominantly observed in “gray” outcrops on the upper part of the ridge, which lack the telltale ferric signature of other Vera Rubin ridge outcrops. Their composition is consistent with anhydrous Fe-oxide, as the enrichment in iron is not associated with enrichment in any other elements, nor with detections of volatiles. The lack of ferric absorption features in the ChemCam reflectance spectra and the hexagonal crystalline structure associated with dark-toned crystals points toward coarse “gray” hematite. In addition, the host rock adjacent to these features appears bleached and shows low-FeOT content as well as depletion in Mn, indicating mobilization of these redox-sensitive elements during diagenesis. Thus, groundwater fluid circulations could account for the remobilization of iron and recrystallization as crystalline hematite during diagenesis on Vera Rubin ridge.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Geochemistry and Petrology
- Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)
- Space and Planetary Science