NRAResearch Opportunities in Space and Earth Sciences - 2008 (ROSES - 2008)

Project: Research project

Project Details


NRAResearch Opportunities in Space and Earth Sciences - 2008 (ROSES - 2008) Laboratory and Field Studies of Silica for Improved Understanding of Recent Discoveries on Mars The Miniature Thermal Emission Spectrometer on the Spirit rover in Gusev Crater has provided thermal infrared (TIR) spectra of soil and eroded outcrops adjacent to the 'Home Plate' feature that show a dominant opal-A phase (hydrated amorphous silica). Supported by additional observations, there is compelling evidence for a hydrothermal system in this location but the details remain unclear. Visible/near infrared (VNIR) spectral evidence of H2O and OH-bearing opaline silica or chalcedony has now been observed from orbit using the Compact Reconnaissance Imaging Spectrometer for Mars on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. These materials are found in units surrounding the Valles Marineris canyon system but their origin is uncertain. The presence of silica phases in both cases points to the interaction of significant amounts of water with the Martian crust. In the case of Home Plate, evidence for an ancient habitable environment is provocative. The spectral data are rich in details that could lead to a clearer understanding of the geologic environments that produced the silica deposits. However, existing spectral studies of these materials are incomplete and in some cases, completely lacking. We propose a comprehensive set of laboratory and field studies designed to elucidate the relationship between spectral features of silica materials and their mineralogical, textural, and geochemical characteristics. Silica samples from a wide variety of settings will be measured using VNIR and TIR spectroscopy, optical and scanning electron microscopy, X-ray powder diffraction, electron microprobe, and high-resolution inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry. We will use VNIR and TIR field spectrometers in Yellowstone National Park and Hawaii Volcanoes National Park to measure spectra of silica deposits from a variety of settings. Samples will be returned for laboratory characterization. This combination of laboratory and field measurements should provide the most complete data set available for the interpretation of silica spectra from Mars.i
Effective start/end date6/15/099/14/15


  • NASA: Goddard Space Flight Center: $575,300.00


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