Preliminary Results from the Viking X-ray Fluorescence Experiment: The First Sample from Chryse Planitia, Mars

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Science  01 Oct 1976:
Vol. 194, Issue 4260, pp. 81-84
DOI: 10.1126/science.194.4260.81


Iron, calcium, aluminum, silicon, and sulfur are major elements in the first surface sample of Mars that has been analyzed by the Viking x-ray fluorescence spectrometer. Titanium is present in minor quantities. This is consistent with the sample being a mixture of fine silicate and oxide mineral grains, with a significant proportion of sulfates, possibly hydrated. Ferric oxide is regarded as the red pigmenting agent on the martian surface, but if it coats silicate grains, the coatings must be very thin (≤ 2 micrometers) or discontinuous. A high abundance of Fe, relatively low abundances of Al, Rb, Sr, and Zr, and a high Ca/K ratio are distinctive features of the spectra. Preliminary determinations indicate the following abundances (as percentages by weight): Fe, 14 ± 2; Ti < 1; S, 2 to 5; the Ca/K ratio by weight is greater than 5.