JAROSITE IN ANCIENT TERRESTRIAL SEDIMENTARY ROCKS: IMPLICATIONS FOR UNDERSTANDING MARS DIAGENESIS AND HABITABILITY
If the jarosite is a primary precipitate, it may have precipitated in highly acidic pore waters; however, the formation has been exposed to 170 Ma of subsequent formational fluid and groundwater flow, which almost certainly would have been more neutral – especially during uplift and exposure when meteoric fluids dominate diagenetic processes. Similarly, if the jarosite precipitated from acidic fluids as a cement during burial or late-stage diagenesis, the formations still would have been exposed to at least 10Ma of meteoric fluids during erosion of the overlying units. Possible explanations for the recalcitrant jarosite and alunite cements include: 1. Previous laboratory studies underestimate the stability of jarosite in natural settings and on geologic time scales, or 2. Biotic influence during precipitation renders the crystal structure resistant to transformation to hematite (similar to examples of amorphous iron oxyhydroxides such as ferrihydrite) – although crystal morphologies in these ancient sedimentary examples are similar to abiotic examples from volcanic environments. This study has important implications for the interpretation of martian sedimentary settings and their habitability because these environments may have had much more neutral fluids than previously interpreted.