Nature 436, 49-54 (7 July 2005) | doi:10.1038/nature03637; Received 20 November 2004; Accepted 8 April 2005

There is an Erratum (11 August 2005) associated with this document.

An integrated view of the chemistry and mineralogy of martian soils

Albert S. Yen1, Ralf Gellert2, Christian Schröder3, Richard V. Morris4, James F. Bell, III5, Amy T. Knudson6, Benton C. Clark7, Douglas W. Ming4, Joy A. Crisp1, Raymond E. Arvidson8, Diana Blaney1, Johannes Brückner2, Philip R. Christensen6, David J. DesMarais9, Paulo A. de Souza, Jr10, Thanasis E. Economou11, Amitabha Ghosh12, Brian C. Hahn13, Kenneth E. Herkenhoff14, Larry A. Haskin8, Joel A. Hurowitz13, Bradley L. Joliff8, Jeffrey R. Johnson14, Göstar Klingelhöfer3, Morten Bo Madsen15, Scott M. McLennan13, Harry Y. McSween12, Lutz Richter16, Rudi Rieder2, Daniel Rodionov3, Larry Soderblom14, Steven W. Squyres5, Nicholas J. Tosca13, Alian Wang8, Michael Wyatt6 & Jutta Zipfel2

  1. Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, California 91109, USA
  2. Max Planck Institut für Chemie,
  3. Johannes Gutenberg University, D-55128 Mainz, Germany
  4. NASA Johnson Space Center, Houston, Texas 77058, USA
  5. Cornell University, Department of Astronomy, Ithaca, New York 14853, USA
  6. Arizona State University, Department of Geological Sciences, Tempe, Arizona 85287, USA
  7. Lockheed Martin Corporation, Littleton, Colorado 80127, USA
  8. Washington University, Saint Louis, Missouri 63130, USA
  9. NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, California 94035, USA
  10. Companhia Vale do Rio Doce, 29030-900 Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
  11. Enrico Fermi Institute, University of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois 60637, USA
  12. Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, Tennessee 37996, USA
  13. State University of New York, Department of Geosciences, Stony Brook, New York 11794, USA
  14. US Geological Survey, Flagstaff, Arizona 86001, USA
  15. Niels Bohr Institute, University of Copenhagen, DS-2100 Copenhagen, Denmark
  16. DLR Institut für Raumsimulation, D-51170 Cologne, Germany

Correspondence to: Albert S. Yen1 Correspondence and requests for materials should be addressed to A.Y. (Email:


The mineralogical and elemental compositions of the martian soil are indicators of chemical and physical weathering processes. Using data from the Mars Exploration Rovers, we show that bright dust deposits on opposite sides of the planet are part of a global unit and not dominated by the composition of local rocks. Dark soil deposits at both sites have similar basaltic mineralogies, and could reflect either a global component or the general similarity in the compositions of the rocks from which they were derived. Increased levels of bromine are consistent with mobilization of soluble salts by thin films of liquid water, but the presence of olivine in analysed soil samples indicates that the extent of aqueous alteration of soils has been limited. Nickel abundances are enhanced at the immediate surface and indicate that the upper few millimetres of soil could contain up to one per cent meteoritic material.


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