High concentrations of manganese and sulfur in deposits on Murray Ridge, Endeavour Crater, Mars
Arvidson, RE and Squyres, SW and Morris, RV and Knoll, AH and Gellert, R and Clark, BC and Catalano, JG and Jolliff, BL and McLennan, SM and Herkenhoff, KE and VanBommel, S and Mittlefehldt, DW and Grotzinger, JP and Guinness, EA and Johnson, JR and Bell III, JF and Farrand, WH and Stein, N and Fox, VK and Golombek, MP and Hinkle, MAG and Calvin, WM and de Souza Jr, PA, High concentrations of manganese and sulfur in deposits on Murray Ridge, Endeavour Crater, Mars, The American Mineralogist, 101, (6) pp. 1389-1405. ISSN 0003-004X (2016) [Refereed Article]
Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter HiRISE images and Opportunity rover observations of the ~22 km wide Noachian age Endeavour Crater on Mars show that the rim and surrounding terrains were densely fractured during the impact crater-forming event. Fractures have also propagated upward into the overlying Burns formation sandstones. Opportunity’s observations show that the western crater rim segment, called Murray Ridge, is composed of impact breccias with basaltic compositions, as well as occasional fracture-filling calcium sulfate veins. Cook Haven, a gentle depression on Murray Ridge, and the site where Opportunity spent its sixth winter, exposes highly fractured, recessive outcrops that have relatively high concentrations of S and Cl, consistent with modest aqueous alteration. Opportunity’s rover wheels serendipitously excavated and overturned several small rocks from a Cook Haven fracture zone. Extensive measurement campaigns were conducted on two of them: Pinnacle Island and Stuart Island. These rocks have the highest concentrations of Mn and S measured to date by Opportunity and occur as a relatively bright sulfate-rich coating on basaltic rock, capped by a thin deposit of one or more dark Mn oxide phases intermixed with sulfate minerals. We infer from these unique Pinnacle Island and Stuart Island rock measurements that subsurface precipitation of sulfate-dominated coatings was followed by an interval of partial dissolution and reaction with one or more strong oxidants (e.g., O2) to produce the Mn oxide mineral(s) intermixed with sulfate-rich salt coatings. In contrast to arid regions on Earth, where Mn oxides are widely incorporated into coatings on surface rocks, our results demonstrate that on Mars the most likely place to deposit and preserve Mn oxides was in fracture zones where migrating fluids intersected surface oxidants, forming precipitates shielded from subsequent physical erosion.