Spectral, Compositional, and Physical Properties of the Upper Murray Formation and Vera Rubin Ridge, Gale Crater, Mars

S. R. Jacob, D. F. Wellington, J. F. Bell, C. Achilles, A. A. Fraeman, B. Horgan, J. R. Johnson, S. Maurice, G. H. Peters, E. B. Rampe, L. M. Thompson, R. C. Wiens

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


During 2018 and 2019, the Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity rover investigated the chemistry, morphology, and stratigraphy of Vera Rubin ridge (VRR). Using orbital data from the Compact Reconnaissance Imaging Spectrometer for Mars, scientists attributed the strong 860 nm signal associated with VRR to the presence of red crystalline hematite. However, Mastcam multispectral data and CheMin X-ray diffraction (XRD) measurements show that the depth of the 860 nm absorption is negatively correlated with the abundance of red crystalline hematite, suggesting that other mineralogical or physical parameters are also controlling the 860 nm absorption. Here, we examine Mastcam and ChemCam passive reflectance spectra from VRR and other locations to link the depth, position, and presence or absence of iron-related mineralogic absorption features to the XRD-derived rock mineralogy. Correlating CheMin mineralogy to spectral parameters showed that the ~860 nm absorption has a strong positive correlation with the abundance of ferric phyllosilicates. New laboratory reflectance measurements of powdered mineral mixtures can reproduce trends found in Gale crater. We hypothesize that variations in the 860 nm absorption feature in Mastcam and ChemCam observations of VRR materials are a result of three factors: (1) variations in ferric phyllosilicate abundance due to its ~800–1,000 nm absorption; (2) variations in clinopyroxene abundance because of its band maximum at ~860 nm; and (3) the presence of red crystalline hematite because of its absorption centered at 860 nm. We also show that relatively small changes in Ca-sulfate abundance is one potential cause of the erosional resistance and geomorphic expression of VRR.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere2019JE006290
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Planets
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2020


  • Mastcam
  • ferric iron
  • hematite
  • laboratory
  • multispectral
  • phyllosilicates

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geochemistry and Petrology
  • Geophysics
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Space and Planetary Science


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