Near-infrared spectroscopy of lacustrine sediments in the Great Salt Lake Desert: An analog study for Martian paleolake basins

Kennda L. Lynch, Briony H. Horgan, Junko Munakata-Marr, Jennifer Hanley, Robin J. Schneider, Kevin A. Rey, John R. Spear, W. Andrew Jackson, Scott M. Ritter

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


The identification and characterization of aqueous minerals within ancient lacustrine environments on Mars are a high priority for determining the past habitability of the red planet. Terrestrial analog studies are useful both for understanding the mineralogy of lacustrine sediments, how the mineralogy varies with location in a lacustrine environment, and for validating the use of certain techniques such as visible-near-infrared (VNIR) spectroscopy. In this study, sediments from the Pilot Valley paleolake basin of the Great Salt Lake desert were characterized using VNIR as an analog for Martian paleolake basins. The spectra and subsequent interpretations were then compared to mineralogical characterization by ground truth methods, including X-ray diffraction, automated scanning electron microscopy, and several geochemical analysis techniques. In general, there is good agreement between VNIR and ground truth methods on the major classes of minerals present in the lake sediments and VNIR spectra can also easily discriminate between clay-dominated and salt-dominated lacustrine terrains within the paleolake basin. However, detection of more detailed mineralogy is difficult with VNIR spectra alone as some minerals can dominate the spectra even at very low abundances. At this site, the VNIR spectra are dominated by absorption bands that are most consistent with gypsum and smectites, though the ground truth methods reveal more diverse mineral assemblages that include a variety of sulfates, primary and secondary phyllosilicates, carbonates, and chlorides. This study provides insight into the limitations regarding the use of VNIR in characterizing complex mineral assemblages inherent in lacustrine settings.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)599-623
Number of pages25
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Planets
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 1 2015


  • Mars
  • evaporites
  • lacustrine sediments
  • paleolakes
  • phyllosilicates
  • spectroscopy


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