Spatially Resolved Chemical Imaging for Biosignature Analysis: Terrestrial and Extraterrestrial Examples
Abstract:Detection of in situ biosignatures on terrestrial and planetary missions is becoming increasingly more important. Missions that target the Earth’s deep biosphere, Mars, moons of Jupiter (including Europa), moons of Saturn (Titan and Enceladus), and small bodies such as asteroids or comets require methods that enable detection of materials for both in-situ analysis that preserve context and as a means to select high priority sample for return to Earth.
In situ instrumentation for biosignature detection spans a wide range of analytical and spectroscopic methods that capitalize on amino acid distribution, chirality, lipid composition, isotopic fractionation, or textures that persist in the environment. Many of the existing analytical instruments are bulk analysis methods and while highly sensitive, these require sample acquisition and sample processing. However, by combining with triaging spectroscopic methods, biosignatures can be targeted on a surface and preserve spatial context (including mineralogy, textures, and organic distribution). To provide spatially correlated chemical analysis at multiple spatial scales (meters to microns) we have employed a dual spectroscopic approach that capitalizes on high sensitivity deep UV native fluorescence detection and high specificity deep UV Raman analysis.. Recently selected as a payload on the Mars 2020 mission, SHERLOC incorporates these optical methods for potential biosignatures detection on Mars. We present data from both Earth analogs that operate as our only examples known biosignatures and meteorite samples that provide an example of abiotic organic formation, and demonstrate how provenance effects the spatial distribution and composition of organics.