Mapping of hydrothermally altered rocks using airborne multispectral scanner data, Marysvale, Utah, mining district

Advances in Space Research

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Multispectral data covering an area near Marysvale, Utah, collected with the airborne National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) 24-channel Bendix multispectral scanner, were analyzed to detect areas of hydrothermally altered, potentially mineralized rocks. Spectral bands were selected for analysis that approximate those of the Landsat 4 Thematic Mapper and which are diagnostic of the presence of hydrothermally derived products. Hydrothermally altered rocks, particularly volcanic rocks affected by solutions rich in sulfuric acid, are commonly characterized by concentrations of argillic minerals such as alunite and kaolinite. These minerals are important for identifying hydrothermally altered rocks in multispectral images because they have intense absorption bands centered near a wavelength of 2.2 ??m. Unaltered volcanic rocks commonly do not contain these minerals and hence do not have the absorption bands. A color-composite image was constructed using the following spectral band ratios: 1.6??m/2.2??m, 1.6??m/0.48??m, and 0.67??m/1.0??m. The particular bands were chosen to emphasize the spectral contrasts that exist for argillic versus non-argillic rocks, limonitic versus nonlimonitic rocks, and rocks versus vegetation, respectively. The color-ratio composite successfully distinguished most types of altered rocks from unaltered rocks. Some previously unrecognized areas of hydrothermal alteration were mapped. The altered rocks included those having high alunite and/or kaolinite content, siliceous rocks containing some kaolinite, and ash-fall tuffs containing zeolitic minerals. The color-ratio-composite image allowed further division of these rocks into limonitic and nonlimonitic phases. The image did not allow separation of highly siliceous or hematitically altered rocks containing no clays or alunite from unaltered rocks. A color-coded density slice image of the 1.6??m/2.2??m band ratio allowed further discrimination among the altered units. Areas containing zeolites and some ash-fall tuffs containing montmorillonite were readily recognized on the color-coded density slice as having less intense 2.2-??m absorption than areas of highly altered rocks. The areas of most intense absorption, as depicted in the color-coded density slice, are dominated by highly altered rocks containing large amounts of alunite and kaolinite. These areas form an annulus, approximately 10 km in diameter, which surrounds a quartz monzonite intrusive body of Miocene age. The patterns of most intense alteration are interpreted as the remnants of paleohydrothermal convective cells set into motion during the emplacement of the central intrusive body. ?? 1983.

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Mapping of hydrothermally altered rocks using airborne multispectral scanner data, Marysvale, Utah, mining district
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Advances in Space Research
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