Author's School

Graduate School of Arts & Sciences

Author's Department/Program

Earth and Planetary Sciences


English (en)

Date of Award

Spring 5-1-2014

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Chair and Committee

Raymond Arvidson


This thesis is a collection of studies that use orbital remote sensing data to investigate the composition and geologic histories of Mars' moons, Phobos and Deimos, and Mt. Sharp, the destination for the Curiosity Mars rover. A final chapter focuses on Curiosity data and terrestrial analog studies to supplement orbital predictions about Mt. Sharp.

Disk-resolved hyperspectral observations of Phobos acquired at a range of lighting and viewing geometries are fit with a Hapke photometric function to solve for the single particle phase function and single scattering albedos of Phobos and also disk-resolved hyperspectral observations of Deimos. Fe2+ electronic absorptions diagnostic of olivine and pyroxene are not detected. A broad absorption centered on 0.65 µm within the red spectral units of both moons is seen, and this feature is also evident in telescopic, Pathfinder, and Phobos-2 observations of Phobos. A 2.8 μm metal-OH combination absorption on both moons is also detected, and this absorption is shallower in the Phobos blue unit than in the Phobos red unit and Deimos. The strength, position, and shape of both absorptions are similar to features seen on low-albedo primitive asteroids. Two end-member hypotheses could explain these spectral features: the presence of highly desiccated Fe-phyllosilicate minerals indigenous to the bodies, or Rayleigh scattering and absorption of small iron particles formed by exogenic space weathering processing, coupled with implantation of H from solar wind. Phobos' and Deimos' low reflectances, lack of mafic absorption features, and red spectral slopes are incompatible with even highly space weathered chondritic or basaltic compositions. These results, coupled with similarities to laboratory spectra of Tagish Lake (possible D-type asteroid analog) and CM carbonaceous chondrite meteorites, show that Phobos and Deimos have primitive compositions. If the moons formed in situ rather than by capture of primitive bodies, primitive materials must have been added to the Martian system during accretion or a late stage impact.

Oversampled visible/near-infrared hyperspectral data over Mt. Sharp in Gale Crater are used to generate spatially sharpened maps of the location of red crystalline hematite within the uppermost stratum of a ~6.5 km long ridge on the mound's northern flank. Emplacement of the hematite is hypothesized to result either from exposure of anoxic Fe+2-rich groundwater to an oxidizing environment or from in place weathering of precursor silicate materials under oxidizing conditions. Although at the time of writing the rover is still ~6 km north of the ridge, high resolution color imaging and low resolution spectral remote sensing data of the ridge collected by Curiosity are consistent with orbital observations. When Curiosity does arrive at the ridge, it is well equipped to distinguish between predicted end-member textural scenarios for ridge materials, which will be essential to understand its formation and evolution.


Permanent URL: