Overview of the magnetic properties experiments on the Mars Exploration Rovers

M. B. Madsen, W. Goetz, P. Bertelsen, C. S. Binau, F. Folkmann, H. P. Gunnlaugsson, J. Í Hjøllum, S. F. Hviid, J. Jensen, K. M. Kinch, K. Leer, D. E. Madsen, J. Merrison, M. Olsen, H. M. Arneson, J. F. Bell, R. Gellert, K. E. Herkenhoff, J. R. Johnson, M. J. JohnsonG. Klingelhöfer, E. McCartney, D. W. Ming, R. V. Morris, J. B. Proton, D. Rodionov, M. Sims, S. W. Squyres, T. Wdowiak, A. S. Yen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Scopus citations


The Mars Exploration Rovers have accumulated airborne dust on different types of permanent magnets. Images of these magnets document the dynamics of dust capture and removal over time. The strongly magnetic subset of airborne dust appears dark brown to black in Panoramic Camera (Pancam) images, while the weakly magnetic one is bright red. Images returned by the Microscopic Imager reveal the formation of magnetic chains diagnostic of magnetite-rich grains with substantial magnetization (>8 Am2 kg-1). On the basis of Mössbauer spectra the dust contains magnetite, olivine, pyroxene, and nanophase oxides in varying proportions, depending on wind regime and landing site. The dust contains a larger amount of ferric iron (Fe3+/Fe tot ∼ 0.6) than rocks in the Gusev plains (∼0.1-0.2) or average Gusev soil (∼0.3). Alpha Particle X-Ray Spectrometer data of the dust show that some of the iron in magnetite is substituted by titanium and chromium. The good correlation of the amount of calcium and sulfur in the dust may be caused by the presence of a calcium sulfate related phase. The overall mineralogical composition points to a basaltic origin of the airborne dust, although some alteration has taken place as indicated by the large degree of oxidation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberE06S90
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Planets
Issue number6
StatePublished - 2009
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geochemistry and Petrology
  • Geophysics
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Space and Planetary Science


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