Evidence for silicate dissolution on Mars from the Nakhla meteorite

Authors


Corresponding author. E-mail: Martin.Lee@glasgow.ac.uk

Abstract

Veins containing carbonates, hydrous silicates, and sulfates that occur within and between grains of augite and olivine in the Nakhla meteorite are good evidence for the former presence of liquid water in the Martian crust. Aqueous solutions gained access to grain interiors via narrow fractures, and those fractures within olivine whose walls were oriented close to (001) were preferentially widened by etching along [001]. This orientation selective dissolution may have been due to the presence within olivine of shock-formed [001](100) and [001]{110} screw dislocations. The duration of etching is likely to have been brief, possibly less than a year, and the solutions responsible were sufficiently cool and reducing that laihunite did not form and Fe liberated from the olivine was not immediately oxidized. The pores within olivine were mineralized in sequence by siderite, nanocrystalline smectite, a Fe-Mg phyllosilicate, and then gypsum, whereas only the smectite occurs within augite. The nanocrystalline smectite was deposited as submicrometer thick layers on etched vein walls, and solution compositions varied substantially between and sometimes during precipitation of each layer. Together with microcrystalline gypsum the Fe-Mg phyllosilicate crystallized as water briefly returned to some of the veins following desiccation fracturing of the smectite. These results show that etching of olivine enhanced the porosity and permeability of the nakhlite parent rock and that dissolution and secondary mineralization took place within the same near-static aqueous system.

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