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Phyllosilicates and Carbonates in McLaughlin Crater
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Phyllosilicates and Carbonates in McLaughlin Crater

Acquired Date: February 27, 2008
Release Date: December 13, 2013
Latitude: 21.71 N
Longitude: -22.23 E
Keywords: Crater Interior/Rim/Ejecta, Carbonate Mineral, Hydrated Mineral, Layered Mineral, Phyllosilicate minerals, Northern Lowlands
Parameters: BD1900R/BD1950 (H2O), BD2500H2 (Mg-carbonates), D2300 (Fe-Mg phyllosilicates)

This image shows McLaughlin Crater, one of the deepest craters on Mars that exposes both clay-like minerals called phyllosilicates and carbonates. Phyllosilicates (pink) demonstrate the presence of water at the time during Martian history when they formed, probably by alteration of volcanic parent rock. Carbonates (white) were at one time thought to be a potential sink for an early, denser martian atmosphere that allowed the existence of surface water. However, CRISM’s mapping of the occurrences of carbonate suggest that there is too little carbonate to store much more than a few millibars of carbon dioxide, about the same as the amount still in the modern, very thin atmosphere. Both the phyllosilicates and carbonates occur in layered, flat rocks on the crater floor.



This image shows McLaughlin Crater, one of the deepest craters on Mars that exposes both clay-like minerals called phyllosilicates and carbonates. Phyllosilicates (pink) demonstrate the presence of water at the time during Martian history when they formed, probably by alteration of volcanic parent rock. Carbonates (white) were at one time thought to be a potential sink for an early, denser martian atmosphere that allowed the existence of surface water. However, CRISM’s mapping of the occurrences of carbonate suggest that there is too little carbonate to store much more than a few millibars of carbon dioxide, about the same as the amount still in the modern, very thin atmosphere. Both the phyllosilicates and carbonates occur in layered, flat rocks on the crater floor.

Many craters and tectonic valleys on Mars are at least partly infilled by sedimentary rocks. Most of that sediment fill contains sulfate minerals and iron oxides, which are thought to have formed in extremely saline, acidic water that would have challenged survival of possible ancient Martian life. McLaughlin Crater contains one of the relative few sedimentary rock deposits containing carbonate, which together with clay suggests a much more benign chemical environment that could have been “habitable”, or capable of supporting life.

Link 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.

References: Michalski et. al (2013) Nature Geoscience, 6, 133-138.


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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