Thermochemical constraints for the formation conditions of the hydrothermal alteration mineralogy of Home Plate and Columbia Hills

Filiberto, Justin and Schwenzer, Susanne P. (2012). Thermochemical constraints for the formation conditions of the hydrothermal alteration mineralogy of Home Plate and Columbia Hills. In: American Geophysical Union’s 45th Annual Fall Meeting, 3-7 Dec 2012, San Francisco, CA, USA.


Home Plate is a plateau in the Columbia Hills of Gusev Crater. It is dominated by igneous minerals (olivine, pyroxene, and magnetite) with small amounts of alteration minerals (hematite and nanophase oxides). Surrounding Home Plate are deposits containing diverse secondary mineral assemblages: Fe3+-sulfates deposits at Paso Robles, Dead Sea, Shredded, Arad, Tyrone, and Troy; Hematite-rich outcrops between Home Plate and Tyrone; SiO2-rich deposits possibly containing pyrite and/or marcasite at Fuzzy Smith; SiO2-rich, possibly opaline silica, deposits at Northern Valley, Eastern Valley, and Tyrone; and Mg-Fe-carbonate outcrops at Comanche in the Columbia Hills. Here, we focus on using thermochemical modeling to understand the secondary alteration mineralogy at the Home Plate outcrop and surrounding Columbia Hills region in Gusev Crater.

We use CHILLER to evaluate mineral assemblages that are likely to form from the Martian Home Plate, Barn-Hill class rock Fastball in contact with a dilute fluid at various pressures, temperatures, and water-rock ratios.

In our models, hematite dominates the alteration assemblage at high W/R at 150°C, but is generally produced at W/R above 10. Goethite only forms at low temperature and W/R above 40 with a maximum around 100 and again around 100,000. Pyrite is produced at all temperatures but only at relatively high W/R. These results imply intermediate to high W/R and low to intermediate temperatures during alteration of the Home Plate region. Additional acidic brine, while not strictly excluded, is not required to form many of the observed phases. In contrast, the phyllosilicates recently invoked from orbital observations indicate neutral to alkaline conditions – either accompanying the silica precipitation or as a separate event. For future exploration, our results emphasize that the observation of assemblages is critically important to understand mineral formation conditions and that minor phases such as fluorite can give valuable insights into host rock chemistry and alteration conditions.

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