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Serpentine and Phyllosilicates near Llanesco Crater
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Serpentine and Phyllosilicates near Llanesco Crater

Acquired Date: June 12, 2007
Release Date: January 10, 2014
Latitude: -26.82 N
Longitude: -101.17 E
Keywords: Volcanic Feature, Ferric Mineral, Hydrated Mineral, Mafic minerals, Phyllosilicate minerals, Tharsis Region
Parameters: BD1900R/BD1950 (H2O), BD2210 (Al-OH minerals), D2300 (Fe-Mg phyllosilicates)

This image shows occurrences of serpentine (red) and aluminum-containing phyllosilicates (green) atop a heavily fractured ridge at the southeast edge of the Tharsis volcanic province. Serpentine isnít found commonly on Mars, and was first discovered there in CRISM images. When it does appear, it is seen in Noachian terrain (the oldest terrain on the martian surface). Serpentine is formed when heat and water alter volcanic rocks. Phyllosilicates are clay minerals and demonstrate the past presence of water. Phyllosilicates are found in many places on Mars, mostly within Noachian terrains that retain evidence of an early wet period on the planet. When phyllosilicates and serpentines were forming, Mars is thought to have been pH-neutral (intermediate between acids and bases and easily tolerated by life Ė examples being milk, seawater, and eggs).



This image shows occurrences of serpentine (red) and aluminum-containing phyllosilicates (green) atop a heavily fractured ridge at the southeast edge of the Tharsis volcanic province. Serpentine isnít found commonly on Mars, and was first discovered there in CRISM images. When it does appear, it is seen in Noachian terrain (the oldest terrain on the martian surface). Serpentine is formed when heat and water alter volcanic rocks. Phyllosilicates are clay minerals and demonstrate the past presence of water. Phyllosilicates are found in many places on Mars, mostly within Noachian terrains that retain evidence of an early wet period on the planet. When phyllosilicates and serpentines were forming, Mars is thought to have been pH-neutral (intermediate between acids and bases and easily tolerated by life Ė examples being milk, seawater, and eggs).

Serpentine has also been found near Valles Marineris (the largest canyon system on Mars) and Nili Fossae (tectonic trenches adjacent to a large impact basin). Serpentine is found in close association with its parent material, the igneous mineral olivine. The presence of serpentine on Mars is significant because its formation from olivine plus water also yields hydrogen gas, which is used as an energy source by some primitive life forms on Earth. Some scientists have speculated that formation of serpentine could help to support a subsurface biota on Mars.

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.

References: Ehlmann et. al (2010) Geophysical Research Letters, 37.


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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