Silicic volcanism on Mars evidenced by tridymite in high-SiO2 sedimentary rock at Gale crater

Morris, Richard V.; Vaniman, David T.; Blake, David F.; Gellert, Ralf; Chipera, Steve J.; Rampe, Elizabeth B.; Ming, Douglas W.; Morrison, Shaunna M.; Downs, Robert T.; Treiman, Allan H.; Yen, Albert S.; Grotzinger, John P.; Achilles, Cherie N.; Bristow, Thomas F.; Crisp, Joy A.; Des Marais, David J.; Farmer, Jack D.; Fendrich, Kim V.; Frydenvang, Jens; Graff, Trevor G.; Morookian, John-Michael; Stolper, Edward M. and Schwenzer, Susanne P. (2016). Silicic volcanism on Mars evidenced by tridymite in high-SiO2 sedimentary rock at Gale crater. PNAS, 113(26) pp. 7071–7076.



Tridymite, a SiO2 mineral that crystallizes at low pressures and high temperatures (>870 °C) from high-SiO2 materials, was detected at high concentrations in a sedimentary mudstone in Gale crater, Mars. Mineralogy and abundance were determined by X-ray diffraction using the Chemistry and Mineralogy instrument on the Mars Science Laboratory rover Curiosity. Terrestrial tridymite is commonly associated with silicic volcanism where high temperatures and high-silica magmas prevail, so this occurrence is the first in situ mineralogical evidence for martian silicic volcanism. Multistep processes, including high-temperature alteration of silica-rich residues of acid sulfate leaching, are alternate formation pathways for martian tridymite but are less likely. The unexpected discovery of tridymite is further evidence of the complexity of igneous petrogenesis on Mars, with igneous evolution to high-SiO2 compositions.

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