Phase Equilibria Modeling of Low-grade Metamorphic Martian Rocks

Semprich, J.; Schwenzer, S. P.; Treiman, A. H. and Filiberto, J. (2019). Phase Equilibria Modeling of Low-grade Metamorphic Martian Rocks. Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets, 124(3) pp. 681–702.



Hydrous phases have been identified to be a significant component of martian mineralogy. Particularly prehnite, zeolites, and serpentine are evidence for low‐grade metamorphic reactions at elevated temperatures in mafic and ultramafic protoliths. Their presence suggests that at least part of the martian crust is sufficiently hydrated for low‐grade metamorphic reactions to occur. A detailed analysis of changes in mineralogy with variations in fluid content and composition along possible martian geotherms can contribute to determine the conditions required for subsurface hydrous alteration, fluid availability and rock properties in the martian crust. In this study, we use phase equilibria models to explore low‐grade metamorphic reactions covering a pressure‐temperature range of 0‐0.5 GPa and 150‐450 °C for several martian protolith compositions and varying fluid content. Our models replicate the detected low‐grade metamorphic/hydrothermal mineral phases like prehnite, chlorite, analcime, unspecified zeolites, and serpentine. Our results also suggest that actinolite should be a part of lower‐grade metamorphic assemblages, but actinolite may not be detected in reflectance spectra for several reasons. By gradually increasing the water content in the modeled whole rock composition, we can estimate the amount of water required to precipitate low‐grade metamorphic phases. Mineralogical constraints do not necessarily require an elevated geothermal gradient for the formation of prehnite. However, restricted crater excavation depths even for large impact craters are not likely sampling prehnite along colder gradients, either suggesting a geotherm of ~ 20 °C/km in the Noachian or an additional heat source such as hydrothermal or magmatic activity.

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