Multitechnique characterization of secondary minerals near HI-SEAS, Hawaii, as Martian subsurface analogues

Sebastian J. Mulder*, Frank J.A. van Ruitenbeek, Bernard H. Foing, Mónica Sánchez-Román*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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Secondary minerals in lava tubes on Earth provide valuable insight into subsurface processes and the preservation of biosignatures on Mars. Inside lava tubes near the Hawaii-Space Exploration and Analog Simulation (HI-SEAS) habitat on the northeast flank of Mauna Loa, Hawaii, a variety of secondary deposits with distinct morphologies were observed consisting of mainly sodium sulphate powders, gypsum crystalline crusts, and small coralloid speleothems that comprise opal and calcite layers. These secondary deposits formed as a result of hydrological processes shortly after the formation and cooling of the lava tubes and are preserved over long periods of time in relatively dry conditions. The coralloid speleothem layers are likely related to wet and dry periods in which opal and calcite precipitates in cycles. Potential biosignatures seem to have been preserved in the form of porous stromatolite-like layers within the coralloid speleothems. Similar secondary deposits and lava tubes have been observed abundantly on the Martian surface suggesting similar formation mechanisms compared to this study. The origin of secondary minerals from tholeiitic basalts together with potential evidence for microbial processes make the lava tubes near HI-SEAS a relevant analog for Martian surface and subsurface environments.

Original languageEnglish
Article number22603
JournalScientific reports
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2023




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