Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Raman spectrometer and the search of Martian life

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. This is according to EPSC.

Astrobiologists 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."

Posted by Tim Sandle