Cathodoluminescence Instrumentation for Analysis of Martian Sediments

Abstract : The morphologic study of the surface of Mars reveals that liquid water existed during the first few hundred millions of years of the planet's history (e.g. Smith et al. 1999). The flow of water produced extensive erosion in some place, but also large sedimentary basins. With a long enough duration of the presence of liquid water and the oxidation of basalts, the emergence of biological activity may have eventually occurred, as on Earth. The detection of biomarkers at the surface of Mars is one of the main challenges of current and planned planetary exploration missions (e.g. Westall et al. 2000). Looking for a fossil or present biological activity may be approached by the search for cells, but also by the study of the results of their activity and their interface with the sedimentary environment. Such bio-sedimentations are known among the oldest terrestrial fossils and testify to the earliest terrestrial bioactivity. A discovery of such bio-sedimentations on the Martian surface would be of prime interest for addressing some of the key goals in exobiology. Cathodoluminescence (CL) is a method relevant to the search for life, as it is in line with these analytical goals of detecting bio-sedimentations (Barbin et al. 1999), and it fits well with robotic facilities usable in modern space missions (Blanc et al. 1999, Thomas et al. 2002. 2005). An established technique, cathodoluminescence is a newcomer to Martian exploration, whereit is expected to contribute to the mineralogical characterisation of sedimentary rocks, to the search for biomarkers revealing past biological activity, and to identify past geochemical conditions (Melezhik et al. 1999; Denson et al. 2007). CL is one of the best methods when the growth dynamics, microstructure, and origin of minerals need to be determined, such as with Martian sediments. CL has become an important standard technique for studying geological materials, offering a wide spectrum of applications (Marshall 1988; Barker and Kopp 1991; Barbin and Schvoerer 1997; Pagel et al. 2000). However, it is in the field of sedimentology and petrography that CL has proved to be especially valuable.
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Roger Thomas, Vincent Barbin, Claire Ramboz, Laurent Thierkel, Paul Gille, et al.. Cathodoluminescence Instrumentation for Analysis of Martian Sediments. Cathodoluminescence and its Application in the Planetary Sciences, Chapitre 6, Springer Verlag, pp.111-126, 2009, ⟨10.1007/978-3-540-87529-1_6⟩. ⟨insu-00349577⟩

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