Effects of Insolation on Habitability and the Isotopic History of Martian Water
AuthorMoores, John Edward
AdvisorSmith, Peter H.
Brown, Robert H.
Committee ChairSmith, Peter H.
Brown, Robert H.
MetadataShow full item record
PublisherThe University of Arizona.
RightsCopyright © is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the University Libraries, University of Arizona. Further transmission, reproduction or presentation (such as public display or performance) of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.
AbstractThree aspects of the Habitability of the Northern Plains of Mars to organics and terrestrial-like microbial life were assessed. (1) Protection offered by small surface features and (2) the breakdown of rocks to form soils were examined using a radiative transfer computer model. Two separate sublimation experiments provided a basis to improve (3) estimates of the amount of available water today and in the past by determining the fractionation of HDO between present-day reservoirs.(1) UV radiation sterilizes the hardiest of terrestrial organisms within minutes on the Martian surface. Small surface features including pits, trenches, flat faces and overhangs may create "safe havens" for organisms by blocking much of the UV flux. In the most favorable cases, this flux is sufficiently reduced such that organic in-fall could accumulate beneath overhanging surfaces and in pits and cracks while terrestrial microorganisms could persist for several tens of martian years.(2) The production of soils on the surface is considered by analogy with the arid US Southwest. Here differential insolation of incipient cracks of random orientations predicts crack orientation distributions consistent with field observations by assuming that only crack orientations which shield their interiors, minimizing their water loss, can grow, eventually disrupting the clast.(3) Disaggregated water ice to simulate the polar caps was produced by flash freezing in liquid nitrogen and crushing. When dust was added to the mixtures, the D/H ratio of the sublimate gas was seen to decrease with time from the bulk ratio. The more dust was added to the mixture, the more pronounced was this effect. The largest fractionation factor observed during these experiments was 2.5. Clean ice was also prepared and overlain by dust to simulate ground ice. Here, the movement of water vapor was modeled using an effective diffusivity that incorporated both adsorption on grains and diffusion. For low temperatures (<-55Â°C) a significant difference between the diffusivities of H2O and HDO was observed. This suggests adsorptive-control within the regolith as energies of interaction are 60-70kJmol-1. This ability of the martian regolith to preferentially adsorb HDO decouples the ice table and polar caps from the atmosphere and allows for geographic variations in the D/H ratio on Mars.
Degree ProgramPlanetary Sciences