Evidence for montmorillonite or its compositional equivalent in Columbia Hills, Mars

Benton C. Clark, R. E. Arvidson, R. Gellert, R. V. Morris, D. W. Ming, L. Richter, Steven Ruff, J. R. Michalski, W. H. Farrand, A. S. Yen, K. E. Herkenhoff, R. Li, S. W. Squyres, C. Schröder, G. Klingelhöfer, James Bell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

75 Scopus citations


During its exploration of the Columbia Hills, the Mars Exploration Rover "Spirit" encountered several similar samples that are distinctly different from Martian meteorites and known Gusev crater soils, rocks, and sediments. Occurring in a variety of contexts and locations, these "Independence class" samples are rough-textured, iron-poor (equivalent FeO ∼ 4 wt%), have high Al/Si ratios, and often contain unexpectedly high concentrations of one or more minor or trace elements (including Cr, Ni, Cu, Sr, and Y). Apart from accessory minerals, the major component common to these samples has a compositional profile of major and minor elements which is similar to the smectite montmorillonite, implicating this mineral, or its compositional equivalent. Infrared thermal emission spectra do not indicate the presence of crystalline smectite. One of these samples was found spatially associated with a ferric sulfate-enriched soil horizon, possibly indicating a genetic relationship between these disparate types of materials. Compared to the nearby Wishstone and Watchtower class rocks, major aqueous alteration involving mineral dissolution and mobilization with consequent depletions of certain elements is implied for this setting and may be undetectable by remote sensing from orbit because of the small scale of the occurrences and obscuration by mantling with soil and dust.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberE06S01
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Planets
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 20 2007

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Geochemistry and Petrology
  • Geophysics
  • Oceanography
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Space and Planetary Science
  • Atmospheric Science


Dive into the research topics of 'Evidence for montmorillonite or its compositional equivalent in Columbia Hills, Mars'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this