Reactive Transport and Mass Balance Modeling of the Stimson Sedimentary Formation and Altered Fracture Zones Constrain Diagenetic Conditions at Gale Crater, Mars

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On a planet as cold and dry as present-day Mars, evidence of multiple aqueous episodes offers an intriguing view into very different past environments. Fluvial, lacustrine, and eolian depositional environments are being investigated by the Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity in Gale crater, Mars. Geochemical and mineralogical observations of these sedimentary rocks suggest diagenetic processes affected the sediments. Here, we analyze diagenesis of the Stimson formation eolian parent material, which caused loss of olivine and formation of magnetite. Additional, later alteration in fracture zones resulted in preferential dissolution of pyroxene and precipitation of secondary amorphous silica and Ca sulfate. The ability to compare the unaltered parent material with the reacted material allows constraints to be placed on the characteristics of the altering solutions. In this work we use a combination of a mass balance approach calculating the fraction of a mobile element lost or gained, τ, with fundamental geochemical kinetics and thermodynamics in the reactive transport code CrunchFlow to examine the characteristics of multiple stages of aqueous alteration at Gale crater, Mars. Our model results indicate that early diagenesis of the Stimson sedimentary formation is consistent with leaching of an eolian deposit by a near-neutral solution, and that formation of the altered fracture zones is consistent with a very acidic, high sulfate solution containing Ca, P and Si. These results indicate a range of past aqueous conditions occurring at Gale crater, Mars, with important implications for past martian climate and environments.


Gale crater; Altered fracture zones; Stimson formation; Reactive transport modeling; Weathering


Earth Sciences | Sedimentology

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