Overview of the Morphology and Chemistry of Diagenetic Features in the Clay‐Rich Glen Torridon Unit of Gale Crater, Mars

Gasda, Patrick J.; Comellas, J.; Essunfeld, A.; Das, D.; Bryk, A. B.; Dehouck, E.; Schwenzer, S. P.; Crossey, L.; Herkenhoff, K.; Johnson, J. R.; Newsom, H.; Lanza, N. L.; Rapin, W.; Goetz, W.; Meslin, P.‐Y.; Bridges, J. C.; Anderson, R.; David, G.; Turner, S. M. R.; Thorpe, M. T.; Kah, L.; Frydenvang, J.; Kronyak, R.; Caravaca, G.; Ollila, A.; Le Mouélic, S.; Nellessen, M.; Hoffman, M.; Fey, D.; Cousin, A.; Wiens, R. C.; Clegg, S. M.; Maurice, S.; Gasnault, O.; Delapp, D. and Reyes‐Newell, A. (2022). Overview of the Morphology and Chemistry of Diagenetic Features in the Clay‐Rich Glen Torridon Unit of Gale Crater, Mars. Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets (Early access).

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1029/2021je007097


The clay-rich Glen Torridon region of Gale crater, Mars, was explored between sols 2300 and 3007. Here, we analyzed the diagenetic features observed by Curiosity, including veins, cements, nodules, and nodular bedrock, using the ChemCam, Mastcam, and Mars Hand Lens Imager instruments. We discovered many diagenetic features in Glen Torridon, including dark-toned iron- and manganese-rich veins, magnesium- and fluorine-rich linear features, Ca-sulfate cemented bedrock, manganese-rich nodules, and iron-rich strata. We have characterized the chemistry and morphology of these features, which are most widespread in the higher stratigraphic members in Glen Torridon, and exhibit a wide range of chemistries. These discoveries are strong evidence for multiple generations of fluids from multiple chemical endmembers that likely underwent redox reactions to form some of these features. In a few cases, we may be able to use mineralogy and chemistry to constrain formation conditions of the diagenetic features. For example, the dark-toned veins likely formed in warmer, highly alkaline, and highly reducing conditions, while manganese-rich nodules likely formed in oxidizing and circumneutral conditions. We also hypothesize that an initial enrichment of soluble elements, including fluorine, occurred during hydrothermal alteration early in Gale crater history to account for elemental enrichment in nodules and veins. The presence of redox-active elements, including Fe and Mn, and elements required for life, including P and S, in these fluids is strong evidence for habitability of Gale crater groundwater. Hydrothermal alteration also has interesting implications for prebiotic chemistry during the earliest stages of the crater’s evolution and early Mars.

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