Mössbauer spectroscopy as a tool in astrobiology


Schröder C, Klingelhoefer G, Bailey B & Staudigel H (2005) Mössbauer spectroscopy as a tool in astrobiology. Hyperfine Interactions, 166 (1-4), pp. 567-571.

Two miniaturized Mössbauer spectrometers are part of the Athena instrument package of the NASA Mars Exploration Rovers, Spirit and Opportunity. The primary objectives of their science investigation are to explore two sites on the surface of Mars where water may once have been present, and to assess past environmental conditions at those sites and their suitability for life. Aqueous minerals – jarosite at Meridiani Planum, Opportunity's landing site, and goethite in the Columbia Hills in Gusev Crater, Spirit's landing site – were identified by Mössbauer spectroscopy, thus providing in situ proof of water being present at those sites in the past. The formation of jarosite in particular puts strong constraints on environmental conditions during the time of formation and hence on the evaluation of potential habitability. On Earth Mössbauer spectroscopy was used to investigate microbially induced changes in Fe oxidation states and mineralogy at the Loihi deep sea mount, a hydrothermal vent system, which might serve as an analogue for potential habitats in the Martian subsurface and the sub-ice ocean of Jupiter's icy moon Europa.

Mossbauer spectroscopy; astrobiology; Mars; Europa; hydrothermal vent; biogeochemistry

Hyperfine Interactions: Volume 166, Issue 1-4

Publication date30/11/2005