Veneers and thicker rinds that coat outcrop surfaces and partially cemented fracture fills formed perpendicular to bedding document relatively late stage alteration of ancient sedimentary rocks at Meridiani Planum, Mars. The chemistry of submillimeter thick, buff-colored veneers reflects multiple processes at work since the establishment of the current plains surface. Veneer composition is dominated by the mixing of silicate-rich dust and sulfate-rich outcrop surface, but it has also been influenced by mineral precipitation, including NaCl, and possibly by limited physical or chemical weathering of sulfate minerals. Competing processes of chemical alteration (perhaps mediated by thin films of water or water vapor beneath blanketing soils) and sandblasting of exposed outcrop surfaces determine the current distribution of veneers. Dark-toned rinds several millimeters thick reflect more extensive surface alteration but also indicate combined dust admixture, halite precipitation, and possible minor sulfate removal. Cemented fracture fills that are differentially resistant to erosion occur along the margins of linear fracture systems possibly related to impact. These appear to reflect limited groundwater activity along the margins of fractures, cementing mechanically introduced fill derived principally from outcrop rocks. The limited thickness and spatial distribution of these three features suggest that aqueous activity has been rare and transient or has operated at exceedingly low rates during the protracted interval since outcropping Meridiani strata were exposed on the plains surface. Copyright 2008 by the American Geophysical Union.
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Veneers, rinds, and fracture fills: Relatively late alteration of sedimentary rocks at Meridiani Planum, Mars