Volcanic ash: Major source of Mars dust?

[Editor’s note: From a paper by Charlie Bristow and Torsten Moller, recently published in the Journal of Geophysical Research.]

Dust Production by Abrasion of Eolian Basalt Sands: Analogue for Martian Dust

• Collisions between particles and surfaces during eolian abrasion of basalt sands can produce dust
• Experimental results from an abrasion chamber range from less than 0.005% to 50%, by mass, of sample reduced to dust in 72 hr
• A Mars analogue weathered volcaniclastic sediment produced 2 orders of magnitude more dust than basalt dune sands

Mars is covered in dust that is stirred up and spread around the planet by dust storms. But where did the dust come from, and how was it made? We explore these questions using sands from volcanoes that were blown around in a large test tube that acts as an abrasion chamber. The results show that wind‐blown particles of basalt sands and volcanic ash can produce dust. The volcanic ash produced more dust than the basalt sand and is a likely source for some of the dust on Mars. [More at link]

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