The University of Arizona

Phase equilibrium investigations of the Adirondack class basalts from the Gusev plains, Gusev crater, Mars

Anna G. Monders, Etienne Médard, Timothy L. Grove


Phase equilibrium experiments have been performed on a synthetic analog of the Gusev plains basalt composition from the Spirit landing site on Mars. Near-liquidus phase relations were determined over the pressure range of 0.1 to 1.5 GPa and at temperatures from 1125 to 1390 °C in a piston cylinder apparatus and 1 atm gas mixing furnace. The composition is multiply saturated with olivine, orthopyroxene, and spinel near its liquidus at 1320 °C and 1.0 GPa, or 85 km depth on Mars, placing an upper limit constraint on the thickness of the Martian lithosphere at the time of eruption. Our experimental work suggests that the Gusev basalts are anhydrous batch melts of a primitive Martian mantle similar to the composition estimated by Dreibus and Wnke (1984). The temperature of multiple saturation indicates the persistence of high mantle potential temperatures on Mars, similar to those on the modern Earth, until at least the very latest Noachian (3.7 Ga). These high mantle temperatures would be responsible for persistent basaltic volcanism throughout the southern highlands during the first billion years of Mars's history. The source for Gusev basalts differs strongly from the source for shergottite meteorites, reinforcing the idea of the absence of global mantle convection and mixing on Mars. The existence of a relatively primitive mantle reservoir requires that at least part of the mantle underwent little modification during early planetary differentiation.


Martian crust.;Basalt;Mars Exploration Rover Spirit;Basalt crust;Martian;Martian phase equilibria;Space missions

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