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In situ detection of boron by ChemCam on Mars

Gasda, Patrick J. and Haldeman, Ethan B. and Wiens, Roger C. and Rapin, William and Bristow, Thomas F. and Bridges, John C. and Schwenzer, Susanne P. and Clark, Benton and Herkenhoff, Kenneth and Frydenvang, Jens and Lanza, Nina L. and Maurice, Sylvestre and Clegg, Samuel and Delapp, Dorothea M. and Sanford, Veronica L. and Bodine, Madeleine R. and McInroy, Rhonda (2017) In situ detection of boron by ChemCam on Mars. Geophysical Research Letters, 44 (17). pp. 8739-8748. ISSN 0094-8276.

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We report the first in situ detection of boron on Mars. Boron has been detected in Gale crater at levels <0.05 wt % B by the NASA Curiosity rover ChemCam instrument in calcium-sulfate-filled fractures, which formed in a late-stage groundwater circulating mainly in phyllosilicate-rich bedrock interpreted as lacustrine in origin. We consider two main groundwater-driven hypotheses to explain the presence of boron in the veins: leaching of borates out of bedrock or the redistribution of borate by dissolution of borate-bearing evaporite deposits. Our results suggest that an evaporation mechanism is most likely, implying that Gale groundwaters were mildly alkaline. On Earth, boron may be a necessary component for the origin of life; on Mars, its presence suggests that subsurface groundwater conditions could have supported prebiotic chemical reactions if organics were also present and provides additional support for the past habitability of Gale crater.

Item Type:Article
Related URLs:
URLURL TypeDescription
Gasda, Patrick J.0000-0003-0895-1153
Wiens, Roger C.0000-0002-3409-7344
Rapin, William0000-0003-4660-8006
Bristow, Thomas F.0000-0001-6725-0555
Bridges, John C.0000-0002-9579-5779
Schwenzer, Susanne P.0000-0002-9608-0759
Clark, Benton0000-0002-5546-8757
Herkenhoff, Kenneth0000-0002-3153-6663
Frydenvang, Jens0000-0001-9294-1227
Lanza, Nina L.0000-0003-4445-7996
Clegg, Samuel0000-0002-0338-0948
Delapp, Dorothea M.0000-0002-2514-337X
Additional Information:© 2017 American Geophysical Union. This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs License, which permits use and distribution in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited, the use is non-commercial and no modifications or adaptations are made. Received 6 JUN 2017; Accepted 9 AUG 2017; Published online 5 SEP 2017. The authors thank the NASA Mars Exploration Program and CNES for support. The team thanks JPL for developing and operating the MSL Curiosity rover mission. The authors thank the reviewer L. Hallis, the anonymous reviewer, R.B. Anderson, and S.M. McLennan for valuable manuscript comments. Frydenvang thanks the Carlsberg Foundation for support. Haldeman and Sanford thank Ursinus College for support. The authors have no real or perceived financial or other conflicts of interest regarding the publication of this paper. Mars and laboratory spectral data are available from the Planetary Data System ( The supporting information contain additional data.
Funding AgencyGrant Number
Centre National d'Études Spatiales (CNES)UNSPECIFIED
Subject Keywords:boron; Mars habitability; ChemCam; prebiotic chemistry; Mars groundwater; NASA Curiosity rover
Issue or Number:17
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20171005-110243722
Persistent URL:
Official Citation:Gasda, P. J., et al. (2017), In situ detection of boron by ChemCam on Mars, Geophys. Res. Lett., 44, 8739–8748, doi:10.1002/2017GL074480
Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:82117
Deposited By: Tony Diaz
Deposited On:05 Oct 2017 21:39
Last Modified:03 Oct 2019 18:50

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