Bulk composition and early differentiation of Mars Journal Article uri icon



  • We report the concentrations of K, Th, and Fe on the Martian surface, as determined by the gamma ray spectrometer onboard the 2001 Mars Odyssey spacecraft. K and Th are not uniformly distributed on Mars. K ranges from 2000 to 6000 ppm; Th ranges from 0.2 to 1 ppm. The K/Th ratio varies from 3000 to 9000, but over 95% of the surface has K/Th between 4000 and 7000. Concentrations of K and Th are generally higher than those in basaltic Martian meteorites (K = 200–2600 ppm; Th = 0.1–0.7 ppm), indicating that Martian meteorites are not representative of the bulk crust. The average K/Th in the crust is 5300, consistent with the Wänke‐Dreibus model composition for bulk silicate Mars. Fe concentrations support the idea that bulk Mars is enriched in FeO compared to Earth. The differences in K/Th and FeO between Earth and Mars are consistent with the planets accreting from narrow feeding zones. The concentration of Th on Mars does not vary as much as it does on the Moon (where it ranges from 0.1 to 12 ppm), suggesting that the primary differentiation of Mars differed from that of the Moon. If the average Th concentration (0.6 ppm) of the surface is equal to the average of the entire crust, the crust cannot be thicker than about 118 km. If the crust is about 57 km thick, as suggested by geophysical studies, then about half the Th is concentrated in the crust.

publication date

  • March 1, 2006

Date in CU Experts

  • June 25, 2018 10:48 AM

Full Author List

  • Taylor GJ; Boynton W; Brückner J; Wänke H; Dreibus G; Kerry K; Keller J; Reedy R; Evans L; Starr R

author count

  • 23

Other Profiles

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0148-0227

Additional Document Info


  • 111


  • E3