SEMINARY 23-09-2016. Spectroscopic evidence for serpentinization on Mars: Implications for Habitability

By Elena Sophia Amador, a Ph.D Candidate in Earth and Space Science and Astrobiology at the University of Washington (Seattle, WA, USA).

Day: September 23rd, 2016
Hour: 12:00
Venue: Auditorio del Centro de Astrobiología (CSIC-INTA)
Instituto Nacional de Técnica Aeroespacial
Ctra de Ajalvir, km 4
28850 Torrejón de Ardoz, Madrid, Spain.

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Title: Spectroscopic evidence for serpentinization on Mars: Implications for Habitability

Abstract: Low-temperature serpentinization is an important process with respect to habitability on Earth and across the Solar System. The exothermic serpentinization reactions produce metabolically accessible H2 as a direct byproduct and typically produce short-chained organic compounds indirectly. For this talk, she will present the spectral variability found within rocks from the biologically active, and serpentinizing, Lost City Hydrothermal Field on Earth and the olivine-rich region of Nili Fossae, Mars. Near- and thermal-infrared spectral measurements were made from a suite of Lost City rocks at wavelengths similar to those for instruments collecting measurements of the martian surface. A similar spectral, and therefore mineralogical, suite was detected at both the Lost City Hydrothermal Field, Earth and in the Noachian (4 to 3.7 Ga) bedrock of Nili Fossae, Mars. The mineralogical suite on Mars appears to be extensive across the region and implies that serpentinization was once an active process in the subsurface, concentrating liquid water, an energy source, and a means for prebiotic chemistry during a time period when life was first emerging on Earth. Although the lithologies and mineralogical assemblages identified on Mars are unlikely to be directly analogous to rocks that underlie the Lost City Hydrothermal Field, it is likely that similar geochemical pathways (and associated sources of energy) were once present in the subsurface, making Nili Fossae a compelling candidate for a once-habitable environment on Mars.


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