Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Spectrometer will help astrobiologists hunt for traces of Martian life

Date:
September 10, 2013
Source:
Europlanet Media Centre
Summary:
An instrument similar to those used on Earth by art detectives and to sense explosives at airports will be taken into space for the first time by ExoMars, the European Space Agency's mission to Mars in 2018. This Raman spectrometer will help space scientists hunt for traces of Martian life.

The European Space Agency’s ExoMars rover.
Credit: ESA

An instrument similar to those used on Earth by art detectives and to sense explosives at airports will be taken into space for the first time by ExoMars, the European Space Agency's mission to Mars in 2018. This Raman spectrometer will help space scientists hunt for traces of Martian life.

Astrobiologists, who will be presenting their work at the European Planetary Science Congress (EPSC) 2013 in London on Monday 9 September, have shown that Raman spectroscopy can be used to detect micro-organisms even after they have been damaged by exposure to very high levels of radiation, as is encountered on the Martian surface. Unlike Earth, Mars has no substantial atmosphere or global magnetic field, and so is completely unprotected against the flood of energetic radiation particles from outer space. This cosmic radiation is a problem for human astronauts, but also for the survival of simple life -- or even signs of its previous existence -- in the martian ground.

Dr Lewis Dartnell, of the University of Leicester, who will be presenting the results at EPSC 2013 said: "Raman spectroscopy is a wonderfully sensitive and versatile technique. It can reveal details of the minerals inside rocks, and so what the micro-environment for life is, but we can also use it to detect organic molecules and signs of life itself."

The scientists worked with model bacteria that are representative of the sort of microbial lifeforms that might be expected to have emerged on Mars and used a Raman spectrometer to track how the detectable signal from them changed with increasing exposure to radiation. They found that the Raman spectrometer could clearly detect the presence of carotenoid molecules in the bacteria. Carotenoids are widely used by microorganisms for protection against harsh environmental conditions and have been proposed by astrobiologists as good biosignatures of life on Mars. After 15,000 Gray of radiation -- thousands of times higher than the radiation dose that would kill a human -- the tell-tale signature of these cells was still discernible, but was completely erased by a radiation dose ten times that.

"What we've been able to show is how the tell-tale signature of life is erased as the energetic radiation smashes up the cells' molecules," said Dartnell. "In this study we've used a bacterium with unrivalled resistance to radiation as a model for the type of bacteria we might find signs of on Mars. What we want to explore now is how other signs of life might be distorted or degraded by irradiation. This is crucial work for understanding what signs to look for to detect remnants of ancient life on Mars that has been exposed to the bombardment of cosmic radiation for very long periods of time."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Europlanet Media Centre. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Europlanet Media Centre. "Spectrometer will help astrobiologists hunt for traces of Martian life." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 10 September 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/09/130910094935.htm>.
Europlanet Media Centre. (2013, September 10). Spectrometer will help astrobiologists hunt for traces of Martian life. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 16, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/09/130910094935.htm
Europlanet Media Centre. "Spectrometer will help astrobiologists hunt for traces of Martian life." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/09/130910094935.htm (accessed September 16, 2014).

Share This



More Space & Time News

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

NASA’s Curiosity Rover Finally Reaches Long-Term Goal

NASA’s Curiosity Rover Finally Reaches Long-Term Goal

Newsy (Sep. 15, 2014) — After more than two years, NASA’s Mars Curiosity Rover reached Mount Sharp, its long-term destination. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
SpaceX's Elon Musk Really Wants To Colonize Mars

SpaceX's Elon Musk Really Wants To Colonize Mars

Newsy (Sep. 14, 2014) — Elon Musk has been talking about his goal of colonizing Mars for years now, but how much of it does he actually have figured out, and is it possible? Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
International Space Station Crew Returns Safely To Earth

International Space Station Crew Returns Safely To Earth

Newsy (Sep. 11, 2014) — The three-man crew touched down in Kazakhstan Wednesday after more than five months of science experiments in orbit. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Solar Storm To Hit This Weekend, Scientists Not Worried

Solar Storm To Hit This Weekend, Scientists Not Worried

Newsy (Sep. 11, 2014) — Two solar flares which erupted in our direction this week will arrive this weekend. The resulting solar storm will be powerful but not dangerous. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins