Martian Eolian Dust Probed by ChemCam

J. LasueA. CousinP.‐Y. MeslinN. MangoldR. C. WiensG. BergerE. DehouckO. ForniW. GoetzO. GasnaultW. RapinS. SchroederA. OllilaJ. JohnsonS. Le MouélicS. MauriceR. AndersonD. BlaneyB. ClarkS. M. CleggC. d’UstonC. FabreN. LanzaM. B. MadsenJ. Martin‐TorresN. MelikechiH. NewsomV. SautterM. P. Zorzano. 2018. Martian Eolian Dust Probed by ChemCam. Geophysical Research Letters 45, 20, 10968-10977 DOI: 10.1029/2018GL079210

The ubiquitous eolian dust on Mars plays important roles in the current sedimentary and atmospheric processes of the planet. The ChemCam instrument retrieves a consistent eolian dust composition at the submillimeter scale from every first laser shot on Mars targets. Its composition presents significant differences with the Aeolis Palus soils and the Bagnold dunes as it contains lower CaO and higher SiO2. The dust FeO and TiO2 contents are also higher, probably associated with nanophase oxide components. The dust spectra show the presence of volatile elements (S and Cl), and the hydrogen content is similar to Bagnold sands but lower than Aeolis Palus soils. Consequently, the dust may be a contributor to the amorphous component of soils, but differences in composition indicate that the two materials are not equivalent.

Plain Language Summary Eolian dust on Mars is very fine dust that covers the entire surface of the planet, gives it its typical red hue, and is mobilized by wind. It plays a significant role in the current rock cycle of the planet and for the temperature of the atmosphere. ChemCam uses a series of pulsed laser shots to analyze the chemical composition of target materials. Each first laser shot by ChemCam gives the composition of the deposited dust. These measurements have been constant over the duration of the Mars Science Laboratory mission. The dust is homogeneous at the millimeter scale (approximately the size of the ChemCam analysis spot). Compared to local soils and sands at Gale crater, the dust contains higher levels of iron and titanium, associated with volatile elements like hydrogen, sulfur, and chlorine. We infer from this difference that the dust does not entirely originate locally and may be part of a separate global cycle.

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