The Mars Science Laboratory rover, Curiosity, is using a comprehensive scientific payload to explore rocks and soils in Gale crater, Mars. Recent investigations of the Bagnold Dune Field provided the first in situ assessment of an active dune on Mars. The Chemistry and Mineralogy (CheMin) X-ray diffraction instrument on Curiosity performed quantitative mineralogical analyses of the <150 μm size fraction of the Namib dune at a location called Gobabeb. Gobabeb is dominated by basaltic minerals. Plagioclase, Fo56 olivine, and two Ca-Mg-Fe pyroxenes account for the majority of crystalline phases along with minor magnetite, quartz, hematite, and anhydrite. In addition to the crystalline phases, a minimum ~42 wt % of the Gobabeb sample is X-ray amorphous. Mineralogical analysis of the Gobabeb data set provides insights into the origin(s) and geologic history of the dune material and offers an important opportunity for ground truth of orbital observations. CheMin's analysis of the mineralogy and phase chemistry of modern and ancient Gale crater dune fields, together with other measurements by Curiosity's science payload, provides new insights into present and past eolian processes on Mars.
- Bagnold dunes
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Geochemistry and Petrology
- Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)
- Space and Planetary Science