Petrological constraints on the density of the Martian crust | INSTITUT DE PHYSIQUE DU GLOBE DE PARIS


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  Petrological constraints on the density of the Martian crust

Publication Type:

Journal Article


J. Geophys. Res. Planets, Volume 119, p.1707-1727, doi:10.1002/2014JE004642 (2014)



New insights into the chemistry of the Martian crust have been made available since the derivation of crustal thickness maps from Mars Global Surveyor gravity and topography data that used a conservative range of density values (2700–3100 kg/m3). A new range of crustal density values is calculated from the major element chemistry of Martian meteorites (3100–3700 kg/m3), igneous rocks at Gusev crater (3100–3600 kg/m3) and from the surface concentration of Fe, Al, Ca, Si, and K measured by the Gamma-Ray Spectrometer on board Mars Odyssey (3250–3450 kg/m3). In addition, the density of mineral assemblages resulting from low-pressure crystallization of primary melts of the primitive mantle are estimated for plausible conditions of partial melting corresponding to the Noachian to Amazonian periods (3100–3300 kg/m3). Despite the differences between these approaches, the results are all consistent with an average density above 3100 kg/m3 for those materials that are close to the surface. The density may be compatible with the measured mass of Mars and the moment of inertia factor, but only if the average crustal thickness is thicker than previously thought (approaching 100 km). A thicker crust implies that crustal delamination and recycling could be possible and may even control its thickness, globally or locally. Alternatively, and considering that geoid-to-topography ratios argue against such a thick crust for the highlands, our results suggest the existence of a buried felsic or anorthositic component in the southern hemisphere of Mars.