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Detection and Analysis of Martian Low-Temperature Geochemistry


Martin, Peter Eckels (2020) Detection and Analysis of Martian Low-Temperature Geochemistry. Dissertation (Ph.D.), California Institute of Technology. doi:10.7907/EF7Y-D584.


The history of Mars is encoded in the geochemistry of ancient sedimentary Martian rocks and secondary phases. Recent landed missions have provided unparalleled datasets with which to investigate this geochemistry. Accordingly, this thesis is concerned primarily with the in-situ analysis of low-temperature Martian geochemical processes by landed missions, and the attendant Earth-based studies which enrich those in-situ investigations. There are five main studies reported here. The first is an analysis of a Mars-analog environment on Earth. Datasets similar to those that will be produced by the upcoming Mars-2020 rover are used to evaluate the ability of the rover to reconstruct a known paleoenvironment, to identify reference datasets that require further development, and to suggest operational modes that most efficiently use the rover’s resources. The second study is an in-situ noble gas analysis using the SAM instrument on the Curiosity rover to investigate a jarosite-containing sample using a two-step heating analysis for K-Ar dating. The jarosite likely formed at 2.12±0.36 Ga while plagioclase in the sample formed at 4.07 ± 0.63 Ga, indicating that liquid water interactions continued in Gale crater well past the end of the Hesperian period. The following chapter details another noble gas analysis, focusing on cosmogenic dating of surface exposure. In contrast to <100 Ma exposure ages observed at the floor of Gale crater, exposure ages exceeding 1 Ga are detected on the flanks of Mount Sharp. These ages indicate Mount Sharp formed during the Hesperian and has been largely unchanged in the intervening 3.1 Ga. The next study is a reevaluation of the data used to identify the presence of perchlorate in Gale crater. These data suggest that perchlorate is indeed present, but that it must be Amazonian in age, suggesting that rare surface wetting events have caused leaching of this soluble ion into the bedrock. The final study reports the development of a technique for measuring the isotopes in perchlorate using Orbitrap mass spectrometry on Earth, allowing investigation of the formation processes that impact the chlorine isotope ratio of this molecule on both Earth and Mars.

Item Type:Thesis (Dissertation (Ph.D.))
Subject Keywords:Mars; Geochemistry; Noble Gas; Alteration
Degree Grantor:California Institute of Technology
Division:Geological and Planetary Sciences
Major Option:Geochemistry
Thesis Availability:Public (worldwide access)
Research Advisor(s):
  • Farley, Kenneth A.
Thesis Committee:
  • Eiler, John M. (chair)
  • Farley, Kenneth A.
  • Ehlmann, Bethany L.
  • Grotzinger, John P.
Defense Date:3 December 2019
Funding AgencyGrant Number
Record Number:CaltechTHESIS:12112019-142555725
Persistent URL:
Related URLs:
URLURL TypeDescription adapted for Ch. 3
Martin, Peter Eckels0000-0003-4243-2090
Default Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:13603
Deposited By: Peter Martin
Deposited On:16 Dec 2019 19:32
Last Modified:06 Jan 2020 20:14

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