The Mossbauer spectrometer was designed to study iron-bearing minerals, and can determine the composition and abundance of these minerals to a high degree of accuracy. Measurements are taken by placing the instrument's sensor directly against a rock or soil sample.
Many of the most important minerals on Mars contain iron, and can yield information about early Martian environmental conditions, including the magnetic properties of surface materials, and minerals formed in hot watery environments that could preserve fossil evidence of martian life.
The Mossbauer spectrometer will provide spectral data, which can be compared to samples in the Mission Control Database Library.
Above: Mossbauer spectrum of a metal-bearing meteorite. The orange line represents the mineral olivine and the green line represents the mineral pyroxene.
The Mossbauer exposes samples to a beam of gamma radiation, and a detector measures the intensity of the beam transmitted through the sample.
Image above: the Mossbauer consists of two parts – the sensor head (right) and the electronics board (left)