Crystal chemistry of martian minerals from Bradbury Landing through Naukluft Plateau, Gale crater, Mars

Shaunna M. Morrison, Robert T. Downs, David F. Blake, David T. Vaniman, Douglas W. Ming, Robert M. Hazen, Allan H. Treiman, Cherie N. Achilles, Albert S. Yen, Richard V. Morris, Elizabeth B. Rampe, Thomas F. Bristow, Steve J. Chipera, Philippe C. Sarrazin, Ralf Gellert, Kim V. Fendrich, John Michael Morookian, Jack D. Farmer, David J. DesMarais, Patricia I. Craig

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

88 Scopus citations


Crystal chemical algorithms were used to estimate the chemical composition of selected mineral phases observed with the CheMin X-ray diffractometer onboard the NASA Curiosity rover in Gale crater, Mars. The sampled materials include two wind-blown soils, Rocknest and Gobabeb, six mudstones in the Yellowknife Bay formation (John Klein and Cumberland) and the Murray formation (Confidence Hills, Mojave2, and Telegraph Peak), as well as five sandstones, Windjana and the samples of the unaltered Stimson formation (Big Sky and Okoruso) and the altered Stimson formation (Greenhorn and Lubango). The major mineral phases observed with the CheMin instrument in the Gale crater include plagioclase, sanidine, P21/c and C2/c clinopyroxene, orthopyroxene, olivine, spinel, and alunite-jarosite group minerals. The plagioclase analyzed with CheMin has an overall estimated average of An40(11) with a range of An30(8) to An63(6). The soil samples, Rocknest and Gobabeb, have an average of An56(8) while the Murray, Yellowknife Bay, unaltered Stimson, and altered Stimson formations have averages of An38(2), An37(5), An45(7), and An35(6), respectively. Alkali feldspar, specifically sanidine, average composition is Or74(17) with fully disordered Al/Si. Sanidine is most abundant in the Windjana sample (~26 wt% of the crystalline material) and is fully disordered with a composition of Or87(5). The P21/c clinopyroxene pigeonite observed in Gale crater has a broad compositional range {[Mg0.95(12)-1.54(17)Fe0.18(17)-1.03(9)Ca0.00-0.28(6)]Σ2Si2O6} with an overall average of Mg1.18(19)Fe0.72(7)Ca0.10(9)Si2O6. The soils have the lowest Mg and highest Fe compositions [Mg0.95(5)Fe1.02(7)Ca0.03(4)Si2O6] of all of the Gale samples. Of the remaining samples, those of the Stimson formation exhibit the highest Mg and lowest Fe [average = Mg1.45(7)Fe0.35(13)Ca0.19(6)Si2O6]. Augite, C2/c clinopyroxene, is detected in just three samples, the soil samples [average = Mg0.92(5)Ca0.72(2)Fe0.36(5)Si2O6] and Windjana (Mg1.03(7)Ca0.75(4)Fe0.21(9)Si2O6). Orthopyroxene was not detected in the soil samples and has an overall average composition of Mg0.79(6)Fe1.20(6)Ca0.01(2)Si2O6 and a range of [Mg0.69(7)-0.86(20)Fe1.14(20)-1.31(7)Ca0.00-0.04(4)]Σ2Si2O6, with Big Sky exhibiting the lowest Mg content [Mg0.69(7)Fe1.31(7)Si2O6] and Okoruso exhibiting the highest [Mg0.86(20)Fe1.14(20)Si2O6]. Appreciable olivine was observed in only three of the Gale crater samples, the soils and Windjana. Assuming no Mn or Ca, the olivine has an average composition of Mg1.19(12)Fe0.81(12)SiO4 with a range of 1.08(3) to 1.45(7) Mg apfu. The soil samples [average = Mg1.11(4)Fe0.89SiO4] are significantly less magnesian than Windjana [Mg1.35(7)Fe0.65(7)SiO4]. We assume magnetite (Fe3O4) is cation-deficient (Fe3-xxO4) in Gale crater samples [average = Fe2.83(5)□0.14O4; range 2.75(5) to 2.90(5) Fe apfu], but we also report other plausible cation substitutions such as Al, Mg, and Cr that would yield equivalent unit-cell parameters. Assuming cation-deficient magnetite, the Murray formation [average = Fe2.77(2)0.23O4] is noticeably more cation-deficient than the other Gale samples analyzed by CheMin. Note that despite the presence of Ti-rich magnetite in martian meteorites, the unit-cell parameters of Gale magnetite do not permit significant Ti substitution. Abundant jarosite is found in only one sample, Mojave2; its estimated composition is (K0.51(12)Na0.49) (Fe2.68(7)Al0.32)(SO4)2(OH)6. In addition to providing composition and abundances of the crystalline phases, we calculate the lower limit of the abundance of X-ray amorphous material and the composition thereof for each of the samples analyzed with CheMin. Each of the CheMin samples had a significant proportion of amorphous SiO2, except Windjana that has 3.6 wt% SiO2. Excluding Windjana, the amorphous materials have an SiO2 range of 24.1 to 75.9 wt% and an average of 47.6 wt%. Windjana has the highest FeOT (total Fe content calculated as FeO) at 43.1 wt%, but most of the CheMin samples also contain appreciable Fe, with an average of 16.8 wt%. With the exception of the altered Stimson formation samples, Greenhorn and Lubango, the majority of the observed SO3 is concentrated in the amorphous component (average = 11.6 wt%). Furthermore, we provide average amorphous-component compositions for the soils and the Mount Sharp group formations, as well as the limiting element for each CheMin sample.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)857-871
Number of pages15
JournalAmerican Mineralogist
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 26 2018


  • CheMin
  • Gale crater
  • Mars
  • Mars Science Laboratory
  • Martian Rocks and Minerals
  • Meteorites
  • Orbiters
  • Perspectives from Rovers
  • X-ray diffraction
  • alunite
  • crystal chemistry
  • jarosite
  • magnetite
  • olivine
  • plagioclase
  • pyroxene

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geophysics
  • Geochemistry and Petrology


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