An integrated view of the chemistry and mineralogy of martian soils

An Erratum to this article was published on 11 August 2005

Abstract

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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Figure 1: Microscopic Imager images, each 3 cm across.
Figure 2: Correlations between APXS elemental chemistry and iron mineral phases measured by Mössbauer 26 in Gusev soils.
Figure 3: Composition of martian surface materials.
Figure 4: Average Pancam 11-colour spectra of bright surface dust and dark soil at the Gusev and Meridiani sites.
Figure 5: Comparison of orbital (TES) and surface (Mini-TES) thermal infrared spectra.
Figure 6: Ratios of bright surface dust to dark soil exhibit similar trends for Gusev (red) and Meridiani (blue).

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Acknowledgements

We thank the members of the MER project who enable daily science observations at the Spirit and Opportunity landing sites. We thank J. Bishop and H. Newsom for providing reviews. The work described in this paper was conducted at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, under a contract with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

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Correspondence to Albert S. Yen.

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Reprints and permissions information is available at npg.nature.com/reprintsandpermissions. The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Supplementary information

Supplementary Figure Legends

Legends to accompany Supplementary Figures A-C. (DOC 19 kb)

Supplementary Figure A

Dark soil Mössbauer spectra from Gusev (red) and Meridiani (black) are essentially identical. (PDF 15 kb)

Supplementary Figure B

Soil to rock composition ratios. (PDF 29 kb)

Supplementary Figure C

Limits on meteoritic contribution at Gusev Crater. (PDF 29 kb)

Supplementary Table A

APXS data of soil end-member components. (PDF 22 kb)

Supplementary Table B

Accuracy of APXS data. (PDF 16 kb)

Supplementary Table C

Two-sigma statistical uncertainties associated with APXS data listed in Supplementary Table A. (PDF 21 kb)

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Yen, A., Gellert, R., Schröder, C. et al. An integrated view of the chemistry and mineralogy of martian soils. Nature 436, 49–54 (2005). https://doi.org/10.1038/nature03637

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