Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets

Mineralogy and chemistry of cobbles at Meridiani Planum, Mars, investigated by the Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity

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Abstract

[1] Numerous loose rocks with dimensions of a few centimeters to tens of centimeters and with no obvious physical relationship to outcrop rocks have been observed along the traverse of the Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity. To date, about a dozen of these rocks have been analyzed with Opportunity's contact instruments, providing information about elemental chemistry (Alpha Particle X-ray Spectrometer), iron mineralogy and oxidation states (Mössbauer Spectrometer) and texture (Microscopic Imager). These “cobbles” appear to be impact related, and three distinct groups can be identified on the basis of chemistry and mineralogy. The first group comprises bright fragments of the sulfate-rich bedrock that are compositionally and texturally indistinguishable from outcrop rocks. All other cobbles are dark and are divided into two groups, referred to as the “Barberton group” and the “Arkansas group,” after the first specimen of each that was encountered by Opportunity. Barberton group cobbles are interpreted as meteorites with an overall chemistry and mineralogy consistent with a mesosiderite silicate clast composition. Arkansas group cobbles appear to be related to Meridiani outcrop and contain an additional basaltic component. They have brecciated textures, pointing to an impact-related origin during which local bedrock and basaltic material were mixed.

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