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Because many of the most important minerals on Mars contain iron, the Mössbauer Spectrometer is designed to determine with high accuracy the composition and abundance of iron-bearing minerals that are difficult to detect. Identification of iron-bearing minerals will yield information about early martian environmental conditions.

The Mössbauer Spectrometer is also capable of examining the magnetic properties of surface materials and identifying minerals formed in hot, watery environments that could preserve fossil evidence of martian life.

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Credit: NASA/JPL/Cornell/USGS/University of Mainz
This Mössbauer spectrum shows the presence of an iron-bearing mineral called goethite in a rock called "Clovis" in the "Columbia Hills." Goethite contains water in the form of hydroxyl as a part of its structure. By identifying this mineral, the examination of Clovis produced strong evidence for past water activity in the area that Spirit is exploring. (released December 13, 2004)

Credit: NASA/JPL/Cornell/USGS/University of Mainz
These Mössbauer graphs, or spectra, shows evidence for the mineral hematite in the rock dubbed “Pot of Gold,” located at Gusev Crater. The top red line is the spectrum for Pot of Gold, and the bottom blue line is for a typical basaltic, or volcanic, rock in Gusev Crater. The two large peaks in the center represent non-hematite, iron-containing minerals, while the smaller set of six peaks (two are hidden in the larger peaks) in the top spectrum is the signature of hematite. Scientists are planning further observations to gain more insight into the hematite’s origins . (released June 25, 2004)


Spectra from Mars

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