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Mössbauer Spectroscopy
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The Mössbauer Spectrometers on the science payload of the two Mars Exploration rovers are sensitive to the oxidation and mineralogical state of the element iron. The detector displays a spectrum as a crest or valley according to whether the spectrometer is in transmission or back-scatter mode. The peaks and valleys can tell which oxidation and mineralogical states of iron are present.

Iron bonded to different elements in samples can also be detected through Mössbauer Spectroscopy, although the energy level the iron can absorb is not equivalent to the energy that could be absorbed by an isolated iron atom. When the energy level to excite the iron-bearing molecule is generated, then that cluster of atoms will absorb that energy and emit it, which the detector will record. From the spectra, the elements bonded to the iron can be named, even though they are not only iron.


Transition mode is one of two modes in which the Mössbauer spectrometer can analyze samples. In this mode, iron appears as a valley.

Back-scatter mode is the mode in which the Mössbauer spectrometer will be used to analyze samples on the two Mars Exploration Rovers. In this mode, iron appears as a peak.


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Last Updated: 30 August 2002

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