Raman spectroscopy of shocked gypsum from a meteorite impact crater

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Abstract

Impact craters and associated hydrothermal systems are regarded as sites within which life could originate on Earth, and on Mars. The Haughton impact crater, one of the most well preserved craters on Earth, is abundant in Ca-sulphates. Selenite, a transparent form of gypsum, has been colonized by viable cyanobacteria. Basement rocks, which have been shocked, are more abundant in endolithic organisms, when compared with un-shocked basement. We infer that selenitic and shocked gypsum are more suitable for microbial colonization and have enhanced habitability. This is analogous to many Martian craters, such as Gale Crater, which has sulphate deposits in a central layered mound, thought to be formed by post-impact hydrothermal springs. In preparation for the 2020 ExoMars mission, experiments were conducted to determine whether Raman spectroscopy can distinguish between gypsum with different degrees of habitability. Ca-sulphates were analysed using Raman spectroscopy and results show no significant statistical difference between gypsum that has experienced shock by meteorite impact and gypsum, which has been dissolved and re-precipitated as an evaporitic crust. Raman spectroscopy is able to distinguish between selenite and unaltered gypsum. This shows that Raman spectroscopy can identify more habitable forms of gypsum, and demonstrates the current capabilities of Raman spectroscopy for the interpretation of gypsum habitability.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)286-292
Number of pages7
JournalInternational Journal of Astrobiology
Volume16
Issue number3
Early online date21 Sep 2016
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2017

Keywords

  • Raman spectroscopy
  • habitability
  • shocked gypsum
  • impact crater

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences(all)
  • Physics and Astronomy(all)

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