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A search for chiral signatures on Mars.

Authors
  • Sparks, William B
  • Hough, James H
  • Bergeron, Louis E
Type
Published Article
Journal
Astrobiology
Publisher
Mary Ann Liebert
Publication Date
Dec 01, 2005
Volume
5
Issue
6
Pages
737–748
Identifiers
PMID: 16379528
Source
Medline
License
Unknown

Abstract

It is thought that the chiral molecules of living material can induce circular polarization in light at levels much higher than expected from abiotic processes. We therefore obtained high quality imaging circular polarimetry of the martian surface during the favorable opposition of 2003 to seek evidence of anomalous optical activity. We used two narrow-band filters covering 43% of the martian surface, 15% of it in-depth. With polarization noise levels <0.1% (4.3 upper limits 0.2-0.3%) and spatial resolution 210 km, we did not find any regions of circular polarization. When data were averaged over the observed face of the planet, we did see a small non-zero circular polarization 0.02%, which may be due to effects associated with the opposition configuration though it is at the limit of the instrumental capability. Our observations covered only a small fraction of parameter space, so although we obtained a null result, we cannot exclude the presence of optical activity at other wavelengths, in other locations, or at higher spatial resolution.

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