Why Raman spectroscopy on Mars?--a case of the right tool for the right job.
ABSTRACT We provide a scientific rationale for the astrobiological investigation of Mars. We suggest that, given practical constraints, the most promising locations for the search for former life on Mars are palaeolake craters and the evaporite deposits that may reside within them. We suggest that Raman spectroscopy offers a promising tool for the detection of evidence of former (or extant) biota on Mars. In particular, we highlight the detection of hopanoids as long-lived bacterial cell wall products and photosynthetic pigments as the most promising targets. We further suggest that Raman spectroscopy as a fibre optic-based instrument lends itself to flexible planetary deployment.
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ABSTRACT: – The identification of adenine by surface enhanced Raman scattering (SERS) on different mineral phases of a Martian meteorite Dar al Gani (DaG) 670 has been adopted as a test to verify the capability of this technique to detect trace amounts of organic or biological substances deposited over, or contained in, extraterrestrial materials. Raman spectra of different phases of meteorite (olivine, pyroxene, and ilmenite), representative of Martian basaltic rocks, have been measured by three laser sources with wavelengths at 785, 632.8, and 514.5 nm, coupled to a confocal micro-Raman apparatus. Adenine deposited on the Martian meteorite cannot be observed in the normal Raman spectra; when, instead, meteorite is treated with silver colloidal nanoparticles, the SERS bands of adenine are strongly enhanced, allowing an easy and simple identification of this nucleobase at subpicogram level.Meteoritics & planetary science 05/2012; 45(7):853-860. · 2.83 Impact Factor
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ABSTRACT: The exploration of Mars, Europa and Enceladus has provided evidence that support the existence of present or past potentially habitable environments, which may shelter signatures of extinct or extant life. A search for further evidence for habitability or for life requires the development of sophisticated instruments and techniques that enable detailed investigations of locations, which are of great interest to planetary scientists and astrobiologists. Raman spectroscopy is powerful and versatile technique; a rover based Raman Laser Spectrometer (RLS) operating at 532 nm excitation wavelength has been selected for the 2018 ExoMars mission. In this study, we demonstrate the feasibility of the utilisation of a time-resolved stand-off UV-Raman prototype for the detection and identification of pure organics, organics mixed in a quartz matrix and minerals that have been selected based on their potential relevance to astrobiology and planetary exploration. The samples of organics (β-carotene, L-ascorbic acid, thiamine hydrochloride, L-alanine, L-serine, thymine), carbonates (calcite, dolomite), sulfates (gypsum), silicates (quartz), and natural rock (a meta-volcanic rock featuring altered volcanic materials mainly quartz) were analyzed at a distance of 6 m using a 355 nm excitation source and a gated intensified charged-coupled device (ICCD) as the detector. We were able to obtain spectra with clear Raman signals enabling unequivocal identification of all selected samples. We assert for the first time, that such an instrument can effectively identify minerals and a wide range of organics that may serve as geo- and biomarkers thus showing great potential for the exploration of planets and astrobiology.Planetary and Space Science 03/2014; · 1.63 Impact Factor
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ABSTRACT: Even in the absence of any biosphere on Mars, organic molecules, including polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), are expected on its surface due to delivery by comets and meteorites of extraterrestrial organics synthesized by astrochemistry, or perhaps in situ synthesis in ancient prebiotic chemistry. Any organic compounds exposed to the unfiltered solar ultraviolet spectrum or oxidizing surface conditions would have been readily destroyed, but discoverable caches of Martian organics may remain shielded in the subsurface or within surface rocks. We have studied the stability of three representative polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) in a Mars chamber, emulating the ultraviolet spectrum of unfiltered sunlight under temperature and pressure conditions of the Martian surface. Fluorescence spectroscopy is used as a sensitive indicator of remaining PAH concentration for laboratory quantification of molecular degradation rates once exposed on the Martian surface. Fluorescence-based instrumentation has also been proposed as an effective surveying method for prebiotic organics on the Martian surface. We find the representative PAHs, anthracene, pyrene, and perylene, to have persistence half-lives once exposed on the Martian surface of between 25 and 60 h of noontime summer UV irradiation, as measured by fluorescence at their peak excitation wavelength. This equates to between 4 and 9.6 sols when the diurnal cycle of UV light intensity on the Martian surface is taken into account, giving a substantial window of opportunity for detection of organic fluorescence before photodegradation. This study thus supports the use of fluorescence-based instrumentation for surveying recently exposed material (such as from cores or drill tailings) for native Martian organic molecules in rover missions.Meteoritics & planetary science 05/2012; 47(5):806-819. · 2.83 Impact Factor