The Mars Exploration Rover Spirit analyzed multiple occurrences of sulfur-rich, light-toned soils along its traverse within Gusev Crater. These hydrated deposits are not readily apparent in images of undisturbed soil but are present at shallow depths and were exposed by the actions of the rover wheels. Referred to as 'Paso Robles' class soils, they are dominated by ferric iron sulfates, silica, and Mg-sulfates. Ca-sulfates, Ca-phosphates, and other minor phases are also indicated in certain specific samples. The chemical compositions are highly variable over both centimeter-scale distances and between the widely separated exposures, but they clearly reflect the elemental signatures of nearby rocks. The quantity of typical basaltic soil mixed into the light-toned materials prior to excavation by the rover wheels is minimal, suggesting negligible reworking of the deposits after their initial formation. The mineralogy, geochemistry, variability, association with local compositions, and geologic setting of the deposits suggest that Paso Robles class soils likely formed as hydrothermal and famarolic condensates derived from magma degassing and/ or oxidative alteration of crustal iron sulfide deposits. Their occurrence as unconsolidated, near-surface soils permits, though does not require, an age that is significantly younger than that of the surrounding rocks. Copyright 2008 by the American Geophysical Union.
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Hydrothermal processes at Gusev Crater: An evaluation of Paso Robles class soils