A spectroscopic analysis of Martian crater central peaks: Formation of the ancient crust


  • This article was corrected on 16 DEC 2015. See the end of full text for details.


[1] The earliest formed crust on a single plate planet such as Mars should be preserved, deeply buried under subsequent surface materials. Mars' extensive cratering history would have fractured and disrupted the upper layers of this ancient crust. Large impacts occurring late in Martian geologic history would have excavated and exposed this deeply buried material. We report the compositional analysis of unaltered mafic Martian crater central peaks with high-resolution spectral data that was used to characterize the presence, distribution and composition of mafic mineralogy. Reflectance spectra of mafic outcrops are modeled with the Modified Gaussian Model (MGM) to determine cation composition of olivine and pyroxene mineral deposits. Observations show that central peaks with unaltered mafic units are only observed in four general regions of Mars. Each mafic unit exhibits spectrally unmixed outcrops of olivine or pyroxene, indicating dunite and pyroxenite dominated compositions instead of basaltic composition common throughout much of the planet. Compositional analysis shows a wide range of olivine Fo# ranging from Fo60 to Fo5. This variation is best explained by a high degree of fractionation in a slowly cooling, differentiating magma body. Pyroxene analysis shows that all the sites in the Southern Highlands are consistent with moderately Fe-rich, low-Ca pyroxene. Mineral segregation in the ancient crust could be caused by cumulate crystallization and settling in a large, potentially global, lava lake or near surface plutons driven by a hypothesized early Martian mantle overturn.