The rocks on Mars can be classified by statistical analysis of mineralogical and chemical data, Wanderer It is a plan for the European mission ExoMars, and its launch time is scheduled for 2022. The method was developed by researchers at the University of Valladolid.
Mars Mount Olympus proves that it has experienced intense volcanic activity in the past. This ancient volcano is 22.5 kilometers high and is the highest mountain in the solar system. As a result of these explosive periods, most of the surface of the red planet is now covered by overlapping layers. Volcanic material.
In the past few decades, mineralogical data obtained by ships flying or moving around the red planet revealed the composition of these layers, and discovered so-called massive Ultramafic rockIt is characterized by low silica content and high content of olivine and pyroxene group minerals.
Now from University of Valladolid (UVa) A method has been developed that will use data from Raman Laser Spectrometer (RLS).The instrument will be carried with you Rosalind Franklin The European Space Agency (ESA) and Russian space company Roscosmos will launch the ExoMars mission in 2022.
The work was published in a magazine Scientific report, Can decisively help achieve the main goal of the mission: to detect past or present life forms on the red planet.
He said: “The study of ultramafic rocks represents a scientific goal closely related to the ExoMars mission.” Marco VenerandaLa Uva’s researcher and the first author of the study, he emphasized that through his detailed analysis, “information about the geological past of Mars and its evolution over time can be inferred.”
On Earth Raman technology It is mainly used for qualitative analysis of rocks, that is, to determine the majority and a few minerals that make up the rock. The UVa team coordinated by Professor Fernando Rull has extensive experience in the use of this technology and its application in planetary exploration. In fact, the group led the development of the RLS spectrometer.
“In this study, we are trying to determine whether the data set obtained through RLS is statistically processed and to what extent can provide information about the detected mineral concentrations. These semi-quantitative data combined with qualitative data will have It helps to accurately determine the composition of Martian rocks and distinguish them.” Venelanda emphasized.
The sum of several tools
with Microcrystalline, The infrared spectrometer will also be installed in Wanderer, RLS will determine which geological samples are worth analyzing MOMA, Another instrument responsible for detecting organic compounds that eventually accumulate in Martian rocks, which may be a sign of life on the planet.
“Knowing that these organic compounds tend to accumulate in certain minerals (phyllosilicates), semi-quantitative Raman studies on Martian rocks will help determine which minerals have the highest concentration of this mineral phase, thereby increasing the success Mission opportunity” he pointed out. inspector.
This research includes students from York University (Canada) and National Institute of Aerospace Technology (INTA)For the first time, it is demonstrated that the Raman spectrometer, which will operate on Mars, can be used to effectively perform these analyses.
The ExoMars mission vehicle will collect rock samples from the underground soil of Mars to a depth of two meters, then crush them and send them to an analysis laboratory. The authors say that RLS will analyze each sample at multiple points, which “provides a high chance of detecting all the major minerals that make up the sample.”
Analogs of Mars on Earth
The team is already fine-tuning the algorithms needed to automate mathematical calculations.Under research project PTAL (Planetary Ground Simulation Library)This semi-quantitative method has been successfully tested on geological samples collected from regions of the earth that have features similar to those found on Mars (for example, the Atacama Desert in Chile).
The research has been carried out on the simulator RLS ExoMars, This is an instrument used to simulate the same analysis on Earth that RLS will perform on Mars. Veneranda concluded: “The results are surprising, because despite the many ideas that can improve the accuracy of the calculations, the Raman data obtained is already very accurate and shows us that we are on the right track.”
M. Veneranda et al. “ExoMars Raman Laser Spectrometer (RLS): Development of chemometric tools to classify ultramafic igneous rocks on Mars”. Scientific report2020 year