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Zeolites and Opals south of Baldet Crater
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Zeolites and Opals south of Baldet Crater

Acquired Date: January 4, 2008
Release Date: October 4, 2013
Latitude: 19.92 N
Longitude: 65.85 E
Keywords: Crater Interior/Rim/Ejecta, Carbonate Mineral, Hydrated Mineral, Other Minerals, Dichotomy Boundary
Parameters: BD1900R/BD1950 (H2O), BD2250 (Opal/Al-OH minerals), BD2500H2 (Mg-carbonates)

This image shows alteration products in Baldet Crater, a well-preserved central peak crater near the Isidis impact basin. This CRISM image perfectly overlays the central peak and reveals the presence of hydrated silica – also known as opal (pink) – and zeolites (cyan) on and around the central peak. Opal is non-crystalline, but solid form of silica with a high content of water. In visible light opal breaks up white light into a spectrum of colors. However it was opal’s distinctive infrared spectrum that enabled it to be discovered on Mars by CRISM in 2008. Opal is among the youngest hydrated minerals found on the Red Planet. Zeolites are microporous minerals (much like a sponge) and are used on Earth as absorbents. On Mars, they are a potential shelter for ancient organic compounds.



This image shows alteration products in Baldet Crater, a well-preserved central peak crater near the Isidis impact basin. This CRISM image perfectly overlays the central peak and reveals the presence of hydrated silica – also known as opal (pink) – and zeolites (cyan) on and around the central peak. Opal is non-crystalline, but solid form of silica with a high content of water. In visible light opal breaks up white light into a spectrum of colors. However it was opal’s distinctive infrared spectrum that enabled it to be discovered on Mars by CRISM in 2008. Opal is among the youngest hydrated minerals found on the Red Planet. Zeolites are microporous minerals (much like a sponge) and are used on Earth as absorbents. On Mars, they are a potential shelter for ancient organic compounds.

Quartz (also a form of silica) and plagioclase feldspar can be seen at this crater in images from the Thermal Emission Imaging System (THEMIS) on Mars Odyssey. The occurrence of those minerals led the central peak of this crater initially to be interpreted as granitoid, meaning compositionally similar to granite rocks that are found on Earth. Granite can form as a relatively low-temperature residue of solidifying magma, and initially it was thought that this site might show that martian volcanism was unexpectedly Earth-like. However, central peaks are also a site of heating due to the impact process. Hydrated silica and zeolite can both form from alteration by water of impact-heated rock, offering an alternate explanation for evolution of rock in this location.

Links to further description of the spectral parameters shown in this image.

Disclaimer: Colors shown here represent indicators of mineralogy and are not what the human eye would see.

Acknowledgements: THEMIS, MOLA, CRISM, Google Earth.

The Compact Reconnaissance Imaging Spectrometer for Mars (CRISM) is one of six science instruments on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. Led by The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, the CRISM team includes expertise from universities, government agencies and small businesses in the United States and abroad.

CRISM's mission: Find the spectral fingerprints of aqueous and hydrothermal deposits and map the geology, composition and stratigraphy of surface features. The instrument also tracks seasonal variations in dust and ice aerosols in the Martian atmosphere, and water content in surface materials — leading to new understanding of the climate.

Credit: NASA/JPL/JHUAPL

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