The nitrate/(per)chlorate relationship on Mars

Jennifer C. Stern, Brad Sutter, W. Andrew Jackson, Rafael Navarro-González, Christopher P. McKay, Douglas W. Ming, P. Douglas Archer, Paul R. Mahaffy

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25 Scopus citations


Nitrate was recently detected in Gale Crater sediments on Mars at abundances up to ~600 mg/kg, confirming predictions of its presence at abundances consistent with models based on impact-generated nitrate and other sources of fixed nitrogen. Terrestrial Mars analogs, Mars meteorites, and other solar system materials help establish a context for interpreting in situ nitrate measurements on Mars, particularly in relation to other cooccuring salts. We compare the relative abundance of nitrates to oxychlorine (chlorate and/or perchlorate, hereafter (per)chlorate) salts on Mars and Earth. The nitrate/(per)chlorate ratio on Mars is < 1, significantly lower than on Earth (nitrate/(per)chlorate > 103), suggesting not only the absence of biological activity but also different (per)chlorate formation mechanisms on Mars than on Earth.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2643-2651
Number of pages9
JournalGeophysical Research Letters
Issue number6
StatePublished - Mar 28 2017


  • Mars
  • Mars analogs
  • astrobiology
  • habitability
  • nitrate
  • perchlorate


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