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UV environment at Jezero crater measured by the Radiation and Dust sensor RDS-MEDA onboard Perseverance Rover: Astrobiological implications

Presentation #318.03 in the session Mars’s Story as Told and Influenced by Dust and Water (Oral Presentation)

Published onOct 23, 2023
UV environment at Jezero crater measured by the Radiation and Dust sensor RDS-MEDA onboard Perseverance Rover: Astrobiological implications

The ultraviolet radiation that reaches the surface of Mars interacts with the surface (regolith, rocks) promoting oxidative stress processes. An example is the colors that some rocks acquire due to the oxidation of certain elements. But ultraviolet light has important implications for the potential preservation of organic matter and biosignatures, but also for future crewed missions to the red planet. Due to the fact that the planet Mars has a thin atmosphere, there is no shielding effect against ultraviolet radiation. The planet’s surface is hit by high doses of UV. Knowing the atmospheric dynamics and its interaction with the surface (regolith, rocks) is one of the objectives of the MEDA instrument [1] on board the Perseverance rover.

Organic preservation, and therefore the discovery of possible biomarkers on Mars, is directly affected by the radiation that bathes the surface of Mars. Using the RDS sensor [2] of the MEDA instrument we can know the UV dose that reaches the surface of the planet in the range of wavelengths of 245, 295 and 250–400 [1,2]. RDS – MEDA is a digital radiometer consisting of two arrays of photodiodes: an array of 8 zenith-pointed detectors (TOP detectors) in different spectral bands from ultraviolet to near-infrared (245, 295, 250–400, 450, 650 , 750, 950, and 110–1100 nm), and secondly, an array of 8 side-pointing detectors (LAT detectors) at an elevation of 20 above the horizon (except LAT8 35 ), all centered on the same longitude of wavelength 750 nm and evenly distributed around the RDS (azimuth spacing of 45) [2].

With all this information, we can study the radiative environment of the surface and its potential effect on the preservation of organic matter. Some studies carried out in the laboratory [3] gave us some clues on the preservation potential of a Martian regolith simulant against UV.

We examine the first 550 sols of UV dose that reaches the surface of Jezero crater, in the environment where the Perseverance rover is acquiring the samples that will be returned to our planet. With all this data we model the real dose of UV that reaches the surface of Mars and its relevance to what we know as Biological Effective Dose (BED) on Earth. We extrapolate these data to models of organic preservation and effects on other biological materials to understand the real possibilities of conservation of biosignatures, as well as the precautions that future manned missions to Mars should take.

References: [1] Rodriguez-Manfredi, et al., 2021. [2] Apestigue et al., 2022. [3] Gómez et al., 2010.

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