Mineralogy and diagenesis of Mars-analog paleosols from eastern Oregon, USA

This is a Preprint and has not been peer reviewed. The published version of this Preprint is available: http://doi.org/10.1016/j.icarus.2022.114965. This is version 2 of this Preprint.


Download Preprint


Adrian Broz , Joanna Clark, Brad Sutter, Doug W Ming, Valerie M Tu, Briony H Horgan, Lucas C.R. Silva


Ancient (4.1-3.7-billion-year-old) layered sedimentary rocks on Mars are rich in clay minerals which formed from aqueous alteration of the Martian surface. Many of these sedimentary rocks appear to be composed of vertical sequences of Fe/Mg clay minerals overlain by Al clay minerals that resemble paleosols (ancient, buried soils) from Earth. The types and properties of minerals in paleosols can be used to constrain the environmental conditions during formation to better understand weathering and diagenesis on Mars. This work examines the mineralogy and diagenetic alteration of volcaniclastic paleosols from the Eocene-Oligocene (43-28 Ma) Clarno and John Day Formations in eastern Oregon as a Mars-analog site. Here, paleosols rich in Al phyllosilicates and amorphous colloids overlie paleosols with Fe/Mg smectites that altogether span a sequence of ~500 individual profiles across hundreds of meters of vertical stratigraphy. Samples collected from three of these paleosol profiles were analyzed with visible/near-infrared (VNIR) spectroscopy, X-ray diffraction (XRD), and evolved gas analysis (EGA) configured to operate like the SAM-EGA instrument onboard Curiosity Mars Rover. Strongly crystalline Al/Fe dioctahedral phyllosilicates (montmorillonite and nontronite) were the major phases identified in all samples with all methods. Minor phases included the zeolite mineral clinoptilolite, as well as andesine, cristobalite, opal-CT and gypsum. Evolved H2O was detected in all samples and was consistent with adsorbed water and the dehydroxylation of a dioctahedral phyllosilicate, and differences in H2O evolutions between montmorillonite and nontronite were readily observable. Detections of hematite and zeolites suggested paleosols were affected by burial reddening and zeolitization, but absence of illite and chlorite suggest that potash metasomatism and other, more severe diagenetic alterations had not occurred. The high clay mineral content of the observed paleosols (up to 95 wt. %) may have minimized diagenetic alteration over geological time scales. Martian paleosols rich in Al and Fe smectites may have also resisted severe diagenetic alteration, which is favorable for future in-situ examination. Results from this work can help distinguish paleosols and weathering profiles from other types of sedimentary rocks in the geological record of Mars.




Physical Sciences and Mathematics


Martian paleosols, subaerial weathering, pedogenesis, evolved gas analysis, reflectance spectroscopy, x-ray diffraction


Published: 2021-12-16 12:27

Last Updated: 2022-03-10 16:32

Older Versions

CC BY Attribution 4.0 International

Additional Metadata

Conflict of interest statement:

Add a Comment

You must log in to post a comment.


There are no comments or no comments have been made public for this article.