Mineralogic and compositional properties of Martian soil and dust: results from Mars Pathfinder

Journal of Geophysical Research E: Planets
By: , and 



Mars Pathfinder obtained multispectral, elemental, magnetic, and physical measurements of soil and dust at the Sagan Memorial Station during the course of its 83 sol mission. We describe initial results from these measurements, concentrating on multispectral and elemental data, and use these data, along with previous Viking, SNC meteorite, and telescopic results, to help constrain the origin and evolution of Martian soil and dust. We find that soils and dust can be divided into at least eight distinct spectral units, based on parameterization of Imager for Mars Pathfinder (IMP) 400 to 1000 nm multispectral images. The most distinctive spectral parameters for soils and dust are the reflectivity in the red, the red/blue reflectivity ratio, the near-IR spectral slope, and the strength of the 800 to 1000 nm absorption feature. Most of the Pathfinder spectra are consistent with the presence of poorly crystalline or nanophase ferric oxide(s), sometimes mixed with small but varying degrees of well-crystalline ferric and ferrous phases. Darker soil units appear to be coarser-grained, compacted, and/or mixed with a larger amount of dark ferrous materials relative to bright soils. Nanophase goethite, akaganeite, schwertmannite, and maghemite are leading candidates for the origin of the absorption centered near 900 nm in IMP spectra. The ferrous component in the soil cannot be well-constrained based on IMP data. Alpha proton X-ray spectrometer (APXS) measurements of six soil units show little variability within the landing site and show remarkable overall similarity to the average Viking-derived soil elemental composition. Differences exist between Viking and Pathfinder soils, however, including significantly higher S and Cl abundances and lower Si abundances in Viking soils and the lack of a correlation between Ti and Fe in Pathfinder soils. No significant linear correlations were observed between IMP spectral properties and APXS elemental chemistry. Attempts at constraining the mineralogy of soils and dust using normative calculations involving mixtures of smectites and silicate and oxide minerals did not yield physically acceptable solutions. We attempted to use the Pathfinder results to constrain a number of putative soil and dust formation scenarios, including palagonitization and acid-fog weathering. While the Pathfinder soils cannot be chemically linked to the Pathfinder rocks by palagonitization, this study and McSween et al. [1999] suggest that palagonitic alteration of a Martian basaltic rock, plus mixture with a minor component of locally derived andesitic rock fragments, could be consistent with the observed soil APXS and IMP properties.
Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Mineralogic and compositional properties of Martian soil and dust: results from Mars Pathfinder
Series title Journal of Geophysical Research E: Planets
DOI 10.1029/1999JE001060
Volume 105
Issue E1
Year Published 2000
Language English
Publisher AGU Publications
Description 35 p.
First page 1721
Last page 1755
Other Geospatial Mars
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