Low temperature aqueous alteration of basalt: Mineral assemblages of Deccan basalts and implications for Mars



[1] Al-rich phyllosilicates (kaolinite, montmorillonite) have been found in layers overlying Fe/Mg-smectites on Mars, and it has been suggested that this stratigraphy formed through in situ leaching at the surface, similar to terrestrial weathering profiles. We are investigating the remotely sensed signatures of this type of weathering using ten samples from a vertical section of altered Deccan basalts and four samples collected nearby as an analog for leaching resulting in Al-rich phyllosilicate over Fe/Mg-smectite stratigraphies. Samples were analyzed with reflectance spectroscopy from 0.28 to 25.0μm, inductively coupled plasma atomic emission spectrometry for 10 major element concentrations (Al, Ca, Fe, K, Mg, Mn, Na, P, Si, Ti), loss on ignition for volatiles, x-ray diffraction (XRD) for mineralogies, and Mössbauer spectroscopy for Fe redox state. Spectra of basalt samples were dominated by Fe2+ crystal field transitions with weak alteration bands near 1.4 and/or 1.9 μm. Reststrahlen bands in mid-infrared showed the convolution of plagioclase and pyroxene features typical of basalts. Saprolite samples were incompletely leached, and their spectra were dominated by complex Al- and Fe/Mg-bearing smectite clays and retained no original mafic signatures. XRD and Mössbauer detected pyroxene and plagioclase not visible by reflectance spectroscopy in some saprolite samples. Zeolites were present throughout the saprolite. The laterite was the most leached horizon, and all analyses showed kaolinite and iron oxide assemblages. This kaolinite and hematite association would be expected if kaolinite on Mars formed through leaching under conditions similar to those on Earth and has implications for abundant freshwater on the Martian surface.