The central uplift of Elorza Crater: Insights into its geology and possible relationships to the Valles Marineris and Tharsis regions
The majority of hydrated silicate occurrences on Mars are associated with impact craters (Ehlmann et al., 2011; Carter et al., 2013). Three formation mechanisms have been suggested to account for this correlation: (1) aqueous alteration occurred pre-impact, and was subsequently exposed via the impact (pre-impact; Bibring et al., 2006; Ehlmann et al., 2011), (2) heat generated from the impact facilitated the formation of a hydrothermal system, leading to alteration products (syn-impact; e.g. Marzo et al., 2010; Osinski et al., 2013), and/or (3) altered materials were deposited after crater formation, or formed within the crater well after the impact had taken place (post-impact). In this study, we analyze the central uplift of Elorza Crater, a ∼40 km diameter impact crater located ∼300 km north of Valles Marineris. To determine whether hydrated minerals found within the uplift were generated pre-, syn-, or post-impact, we used a data synthesis approach, utilizing High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE), Compact Reconnaissance Imaging Spectrometer for Mars (CRISM), Context Camera (CTX), and Thermal Emission Imaging System (THEMIS) imagery. Opaline silica is observed in two locations on the southwestern side of the uplift and is interpreted to have been pre-existing or formed via hydrothermal alteration due to stratigraphic relationships with the overlying impact melt unit. Both Fe/Mg smectite and low-calcium pyroxene (LCP) are found throughout the uplift. Bedrock exposures on the northern wall of Coprates Chasma containing Fe/Mg smectite and LCP suggest an uplifted origin for these units. In all cases, although a pre-existing origin is probable, it is difficult to rule out the possibility of an impact-generated hydrothermal origin. Using the observed stratigraphy exposed in Coprates Chasma and bedrock exposures analyzed in nearby craters, we were able to constrain the pre-impact stratigraphy around Elorza. The near-subsurface consists of Hesperian-aged, discontinuous lava/ash deposits that may be interposed with opaline silica-bearing deposits, overlying Noachian basement consisting of smectite-bearing bedrock and LCP- bearing light-toned fractured bedrock.