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Spectral identification of hydrated sulfates on Mars and comparison with acidic environments on Earth

  • Janice L. Bishop (a1) (a2), M. Darby Dyar (a3), Melissa D. Lane (a4) and Jillian F. Banfield (a5)

Abstract

We interpret recent spectral data of Mars collected by the Mars Exploration Rovers to contain substantial evidence of sulfate minerals and aqueous processes. We present visible/near-infrared (VNIR), mid-IR and Mössbauer spectra of several iron sulfate minerals and two acid mine drainage (AMD) samples collected from the Iron Mountain site and compare these combined data with the recent spectra of Mars. We suggest that the sulfates on Mars are produced via aqueous oxidation of sulfides known to be present on Mars from Martian meteorites. The sulfate-rich rock outcrops observed in Meridiani Planum may have formed in an acidic environment similar to AMD environments on Earth. Because microorganisms are typically involved in the oxidation of sulfides to sulfates in terrestrial AMD sites, sulfate-rich rock outcrops on Mars may be a good location to search for evidence of life on that planet. Whether or not life evolved on Mars, following the trail of sulfate minerals is likely to lead to aqueous processes and chemical weathering. Our results imply that sulfate minerals formed in Martian soils via chemical weathering, perhaps over very long time periods, and that sulfate minerals precipitated following aqueous oxidation of sulfides to form the outcrop rocks at Meridiani Planum.

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International Journal of Astrobiology
  • ISSN: 1473-5504
  • EISSN: 1475-3006
  • URL: /core/journals/international-journal-of-astrobiology
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