While non-analcime zeolites are plausible mineral constituents of the Martian surface, their lack of prominent spectral characteristics in the visible to shortwave infrared wavelength region makes them difficult to identify using orbital data. This lack of detection has led to the assumption that they are limited or absent. Here we assess the capability of mapping non-analcime zeolites using different mapping techniques and present the possible reasons that could lead to limited detection of zeolites using an analog study from Paleolake Tecopa, California. We used spaceborne hyperspectral Hyperion and multispectral ASTER data to identify zeolites following X-ray Diffraction (XRD) and visible-near infrared and shortwave infrared (VNIR-SWIR) spectral analysis of collected samples containing zeolites and other associated minerals. We used four of the most common spectral mapping methods: (1) band ratios, (2) minimum noise fraction (MNF), (3) spectral angle mapper (SAM), and (4) linear spectral unmixing (LSU). We were able to map zeolite-rich tuff beds using carefully selected band indices, MNF band combinations, and the pixel spectra corresponding to a zeolite-rich abandoned quarry area. Hyperion results show less overall accuracy than the ASTER image products mostly due to the low signal-to-noise ratio of the Hyperion data. The spectral characteristics of zeolites in zeolite-rich pixels are masked by phyllosilicates (e.g., smectite) present in the ground resolution cell (GRC), making it difficult to identify zeolites in phyllosilicate-bearing deposits solely based on zeolite spectra. Therefore, the SAM product derived using the pixel spectrum of the well-exposed zeolite-rich quarry shows the highest accuracy in Hyperion image products. ASTER band ratio Band 2/Band 1, representing the ferric ion, was able to identify the zeolite-rich beds with the highest accuracies. However, most of the zeolite-rich paleolake beds were difficult to identify since they are buried by other beds, mixed with other beds due to physical weathering, or the areas of exposed beds are smaller than the GRC of the satellite. The results imply that the paucity of detected zeolites on Mars, as we see at Lake Tecopa, does not preclude their wider presence, either beneath other materials, obscured by surface dust, or mixed with more spectrally dominant phases.
G. R. L. Kodikara, McHenry, L. J., & van. (2023). Spectral mapping of zeolite bearing paleolake deposits at Lake Tecopa, California and its implications for mapping zeolites on Mars. Geosystems and Geoenvironment, 2(1), 100119–100119. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.geogeo.2022.100119