The University of Arizona

A new hematite formation mechanism for Mars

M. E. Minitti, M. D. Lane, J. L. Bishop

Abstract


The origin of hematite detected in Martian surface materials is commonly attributed to weathering processes or aqueous precipitation. Here, we present a new hematite formation mechanism that requires neither water nor weathering. Glass-rich basalts with Martian meteorite-like chemistry (high FeO, low Al2O3) oxidized at high (700 and 900 °C) temperatures in air and CO2, respectively, form thin (<1 μm) hematite coatings on their outermost surfaces. Hematite is manifested macroscopically by development of magnetism and a gray, metallic sheen on the glass surface and microscopically by Fe enrichment at the glass surface observed in element maps. Visible and nearinfrared, thermal infrared, and Raman spectroscopy confirm that the Fe enrichment at the oxidized glass surfaces corresponds to hematite mineralization. Hematite formation on basaltic glass is enabled by a mechanism that induces migration of Fe2+ to the surface of an oxidizing glass and subsequent oxidation to form hematite. A natural example of the hematite formation mechanism is provided by a Hawaiian basalt hosting a gray, metallic sheen that corresponds to a thin hematite coating. Hematite coating development on the Hawaiian basalt demonstrates that Martian meteorite-like FeO contents are not required for hematite coating formation on basalt glass and that such coatings form during initial extrusion of the glassy basalt flows. If gray hematite originating as coatings on glassy basalt flows is an important source of Martian hematite, which is feasible given the predominance of igneous features on Mars, then the requirement of water as an agent of hematite formation is eliminated.

Keywords


hematite formation

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