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Geochemistry and mineralogy of Western Australian salt lake sediments: Implications for Meridiani Planum on Mars

Citation
Ruecker A, Schröder C, Byrne JM, Weigold P, Behrens S & Kappler A (2016) Geochemistry and mineralogy of Western Australian salt lake sediments: Implications for Meridiani Planum on Mars, Astrobiology, 16 (7), pp. 525-538.

Abstract
Hypersaline lakes are characteristic for Western Australia and display a rare combination of geochemical and mineralogical properties which make these lakes potential analogues for past conditions on Mars. In our study we focused on the geochemistry and mineralogy of Lake Orr and Lake Whurr. While both lakes are poor in organic carbon (<1%) the sediments’ pH values differ and range from 3.8 to 4.8 in Lake Orr and from 5.4 to 6.3 in Lake Whurr sediments. Lake Whurr sediments were dominated by orange and red sediment zones in which the main Fe minerals were identified as hematite, goethite, and tentatively jarosite and pyrite. Lake Orr was dominated by brownish and blackish sediments where the main Fe minerals were goethite and another paramagnetic Fe(III)-phase that could not be identified. Furthermore, a likely secondary Fe(II)-phase was observed in Lake Orr sediments. The mineralogy of these two salt lakes in the sampling area is strongly influenced by events such as flooding, evaporation and desiccation, processes that explain at least to some extent the observed differences between Lake Orr and Lake Whurr. The iron mineralogy of Lake Whurr sediments and the high salinity make this lake a suitable analogue for Meridiani Planum on Mars and in particular the tentative identification of pyrite in Lake Whurr sediments has implications for the interpretation of the Fe mineralogy of Meridiani Planum sediments.

Keywords
Western Australia; salt lakes; jarosite; hematite; pyrite; Mars analogue

StatusPublished
AuthorsRuecker Alexander, Schröder Christian, Byrne James M, Weigold Pascal, Behrens Sebastian, Kappler Andreas
Publication date06/2016
Publication date online03/06/2016
Date accepted by journal02/03/2016
PublisherMary Ann Liebert, Inc.
ISSN 1531-1074
LanguageEnglish

Journal
Astrobiology: Volume 16, Issue 7

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