Hydrated sulfates are found in a wide variety of planetary environments on Earth and throughout the solar system. Orbiter and rover missions, like the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter and Curiosity rover, have identified a range of hydrated sulfates on the surface and shallow subsurface of Mars, including the solid solution of szomolnokite and kieserite (FeSO4·H2O–MgSO4·H2O), which may persist at greater depths. Hubble Space Telescope and Galileo spacecraft measurements of icy moons have indicated the presence of sulfate-ice mixtures on the surface, prompting theoretical and experimental work constructing interior models of icy satellites, like Ganymede.
To better understand the high pressure and low temperature environments hydrated sulfates are found in, we have performed a suite of experiments on an iron-endmember hydrated sulfate, szomolnokite (FeSO4·H2O), in the diamond anvil cell aimed at characterizing its elastic, electronic, and structural properties. Using synchrotron infrared spectroscopy, synchrotron Mössbauer spectroscopy, nuclear resonant inelastic X-ray scattering, and X-ray diffraction, we identify structural phase transitions and the related effects on both the bulk elastic properties and specific atomic environments in szomolnokite. Using this comprehensive dataset we evaluate szomolnokite’s contribution to planetary interior properties, including seismic wave velocities, water storage, and implications for viscosity.
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