Organic Material Distribution in Mars-Analog Volcanic Rocks, as Determined with Ultraviolet Laser-Induced Fluorescence Spectroscopy
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Understanding the distribution of trace organic material in a rocky environment is a key to constraining the material requirements for sustaining microbial life. We used an ultraviolet laser-induced fluorescence (LIF) spectroscopy instrument to characterize the distribution of organic biosignatures in basalts collected from two Mars-analog environments. We correlated the fluorescence results with alteration-related sample properties. These samples exhibit a range of alteration conditions found in the volcanic environments of Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park, Hawai'i (HI), and Craters of the Moon National Monument, Idaho (ID), including fumarolic systems. LIF mapping of the sample surfaces and interiors showed a heterogeneous distribution of areas of highly fluorescent material (point[s]-of-interest [POIs])-with fluorescence characteristics indicative of organic material. Results suggest that POIs are associated with secondary alteration mineral deposits in the rock's vesicles, including zeolites and calcite. Scanning electron microscopy with electron-dispersive X-ray spectroscopy was used to characterize the mineralogy present at POIs and support the evidence of carbon-bearing material. Overall, samples collected proximate to active or relict meteoric fumaroles from Hawai'i were shown to contain evidence for organic deposits. This suggests that these minerals are measurable spectroscopic targets that may be used to inform sample-site selection for astrobiology research.
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