Assessing martian bedrock mineralogy through "windows" in the dust using near- and thermal infrared remote sensing
Much of Mars' surface is mantled by bright dust, which masks the spectral features used to interpret the mineralogy of the underlying bedrock. Despite the wealth of near-infrared (NIR) and thermal infrared data returned from orbiting spacecraft in recent decades, the detailed bedrock composition of approximately half of the martian surface remains relatively unknown due to dust cover. To address this issue, and to help gain a better understanding of the bedrock mineralogy in dusty regions, data from the Thermal Emission Spectrometer (TES) Dust Cover Index (DCI) and Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) Mars Color Imager (MARCI) were used to identify 63 small localized areas within the classical bright dusty regions of Arabia Terra, Elysium Planitia, and Tharsis as potential "windows" through the dust; that is, areas where the dust cover is thin enough to permit infrared remote sensing of the underlying bedrock. The bedrock mineralogy of each candidate "window" was inferred using processed spectra from the Mars Express (MEx) Observatoire pour la Mineralogie, l'Eau, les Glaces et l'Activité (OMEGA) NIR spectrometer and, where possible, TES. 12 areas of interest returned spectra that are consistent with mineral species expected to be present at the regional scale, such as high- and low-calcium pyroxene, olivine, and iron-bearing glass. Distribution maps were created using previously defined index parameters for each species present within an area. High-quality TES spectra, if present within an area of interest, were deconvolved to estimate modal mineralogy and support NIR results. OMEGA data from Arabia Terra and Elysium Planitia are largely similar and indicate the presence of high-calcium pyroxene with significant contributions of glass and olivine, while TES data suggest an intermediate between the established southern highlands and Syrtis Major compositions. Limited data from Tharsis indicate low-calcium pyroxene mixed with lesser amounts of high-calcium pyroxene and perhaps glass. TES data from southern Tharsis correlate well with the previously inferred compositions of the Aonium and Mare Sirenum highlands immediately to the south.