Ferric iron in SNC meteorites as determined by Mossbauer spectroscopy: Implications for martian landers and martian oxygen fugacity
Mossbauer spectra of martian meteorites are currently of great interest due to the Mossbauer spectrometers on the Athena mission MER rovers as well as the European Space Agency Mars Express mission, with its Beagle 2 payload. Also, considerable current effort is being made to understand the oxygen fugacity of martian magmas because of the effect of fO2 on mineral chemistry and crystallization processes. For these 2 reasons, the present study was conceived to acquire room temperature Mossbauer spectra of mineral separates and whole rock samples of 10 SNC meteorites. The results suggest that mineral identification using remote application of this technique will be most useful when the phases present have distinctive parameters arising from Fe in very different coordination polyhedra; for example, pyroxene coexisting with olivine can be discriminated easily, but opx versus cpx cannot. The MER goal of using Mossbauer spectroscopy to quantify the relative amounts of individual mineral species present will be difficult to satisfy if silicates are present because the lack of constraints on wt% FeO contents of individual silicate phases present will make modal calculations impossible. The remote Mossbauer spectroscopy will be most advantageous if the rocks analyzed are predominantly oxides with known stoichiometries, though these phases are not present in the SNCs. As for the detection of martian oxygen fugacity, no evidence exists in the SNC samples studied of a relationship between Fe3+ content and fO2 as calculated by independent methods. Possibly, all of the Fe3+ observed in olivine is the result of dehydrogenation rather than oxidation, and this process may also be the source of all the Fe3+ observed in pyroxene. The observed Fe3+ in pyroxene also likely records an equilibrium between pyroxene and melt at such low fO2 that little or no Fe3+ would be expected.