Pyrrhotite-pentlandite assemblages in mafic and ultramafic igneous rocks may have contributed significantly to the chemical weathering reactions that produced degradation products in the Martian regolith. By analogy with terrestrial processes, a model is proposed whereby supergene alteration of these primary Fe-Ni sulfides on Mars has generated secondary sulfides (e.g., pyrite) below the water table and produced acidic groundwater containing high concentrations of dissolved Fe, Ni and sulfate ions. The low pH solutions also initiated weathering reactions of igneous feldspars and ferromagnesian silicates to form clay silicate and ferric oxyhydroxide phases. Near-surface oxidation and hydrolysis of ferric sulfato- and hydroxo-complex ions and sols formed gossans above the water table consisting of poorly crystalline hydrated ferric sulfates (e.g., jarosite), oxides (ferrihydrite, goethite) and silica (opal). Underlying groundwater, now permafrost, contains hydroxo sulfato complexes of Fe, Al, Mg, Ni, etc., which may be stabilized in frozen acidic solutions beneath the surface of Mars. Sublimation of permafrost may replenish colloidal ferric oxides, sulfates and phyllosilicates during dust storms on Mars.
LUNAR AND PLANETARY EXPLORATION
Lunar and Planetary Inst., Workshop on Mars Sample Return Science; p 48-50