Geochemistry of the Bagnold dune field as observed by ChemCam and comparison with other aeolian deposits at Gale crate

1Cousin Agnes et al. (>10)*
Journal of Geophysical Research Planets (in Press) Link to Article [DOI: 10.1002/2017JE005261]
1Institut de Recherche en Astrophysique et Planétologie, CNRS-Université Toulouse, Toulouse, France
*Find the extensive, full author and affiliation list on the publishers website
Published by arrangement with John Wiley & Sons

The Curiosity rover conducted the first field investigation of an active extraterrestrial dune. This study of the Bagnold dunes focuses on the ChemCam chemical results and also presents findings on the grain size distributions based on the ChemCam RMI and MAHLI images. These active dunes are composed of grains that are mostly <250 μm. Their composition is overall similar to that of the aeolian deposits analyzed all along the traverse (“Aeolis Palus soils”). Nevertheless, the dunes contain less volatiles (Cl, H, S) than the Aeolis Palus soils, which appears to be due to a lower content of volatile-rich fine-grained particles (<100 μm), or a lower content of volatile-rich amorphous component, possibly as a result of: 1) a lower level of chemical alteration; 2) the removal of an alteration rind at the surface of the grains during transport; 3) a lower degree of interaction with volcanic gases/aerosols; or 4) physical sorting that removed the smallest and most altered grains. Analyses of the >150 μm grain-size dump piles have shown that coarser grains (150-250 μm) are enriched in the mafic elements Fe and Mn, suggesting a larger content in olivine compared to smaller grains (<150 μm) of the Bagnold dunes. Moreover, the chemistry of soils analyzed in the vicinity of the dunes indicates that they are similar to the dune material. All these observations suggest that the olivine content determined by X-ray diffraction of the <150 μm grain-size sample should be considered as a lower limit for the Bagnold dunes.

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