PIA21148: Clay Mineral Crystal Structure Tied to Composition
 Target Name:  Mars
 Mission:  Mars Science Laboratory (MSL)
 Instrument:  CheMin
 Product Size:  534 x 391 pixels (w x h)
 Produced By:  JPL
 Full-Res TIFF:  PIA21148.tif (131.6 kB)
 Full-Res JPEG:  PIA21148.jpg (35.44 kB)

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This diagram illustrates how the dimensions of clay minerals' crystal structure are affected by which ions are present in the composition of the mineral. Different clay minerals were identified this way at two sites in Mars' Gale Crater: "Murray Buttes" and "Yellowknife Bay."

In otherwise identical clay minerals, a composition that includes aluminum and ferric iron ions (red dots) results in slightly smaller crystalline unit cells than one that instead includes magnesium and ferrous iron ions (green dots). Ferric iron is more highly oxidized than ferrous iron.

Crystalline cell units are the basic repeating building blocks that define minerals. X-ray diffraction analysis, a capability of the Chemistry and Mineralogy (CheMin) instrument on NASA's Curiosity Mars rover, identifies minerals from their crystalline structure. The graph at PIA21147 depicts CheMin results that detected a difference in clay-mineral crystalline dimensions in samples from Murray Buttes and Yellowknife Bay.

Presented at the 2016 AGU Fall Meeting on Dec. 13. in San Francisco, CA.

NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of Caltech in Pasadena, California, manages the Mars Science Laboratory Project for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington.

For more information about Curiosity, visit http://www.nasa.gov/msl and http://mars.jpl.nasa.gov/msl.

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