Sands at Gusev crater, mars

Nathalie A. Cabrol, Kenneth Herkenhoff, Andrew H. Knoll, Jack Farmer, Raymond Arvidson, Edmond Grin, Ronxing Li, Lori Fenton, Barbara Cohen, James Bell, R. Aileen Yingst

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Processes, environments, and the energy associated with the transport and deposition of sand at Gusev Crater are characterized at the microscopic scale through the comparison of statistical moments for particle size and shape distributions. Bivariate and factor analyses define distinct textural groups at 51 sites along the traverse completed by the Spirit rover as it crossed the plains and went into the Columbia Hills. Fine-to-medium sand is ubiquitous in ripples and wind drifts. Most distributions show excess fine material, consistent with a predominance of wind erosion over the last 3.8 billion years. Negative skewness at West Valley is explained by the removal of fine sand during active erosion, or alternatively, by excess accumulation of coarse sand from a local source. The coarse to very coarse sand particles of ripple armors in the basaltic plains have a unique combination of size and shape. Their distribution display significant changes in their statistical moments within the ~400 m that separate the Columbia Memorial Station from Bonneville Crater. Results are consistent with aeolian and/or impact deposition, while the elongated and rounded shape of the grains forming the ripples, as well as their direction of origin, could point to Ma'adim Vallis as a possible source. For smaller particles on the traverse, our findings confirm that aeolian processes have dominated over impact and other processes to produce sands with the observed size and shape patterns across a spectrum of geologic (e.g., ripples and plains soils) and aerographic settings (e.g., wind shadows). Key Points Textural analysis of the complete archive of the MER MI soil images Distinct textural areas reflect the geographical divisions along the traverse Processes, environments, and energy are inferred from particle shape and size

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)941-967
Number of pages27
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Planets
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2014


  • Gusev
  • Mars
  • Sand
  • Sedimentology
  • Spirit
  • Texture

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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