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AGU: Geophysical Research Letters

 

Keywords

  • Martian subsurface
  • ionizing radiation
  • organic compounds

Index Terms

  • 2104 - Cosmic rays

Paper in Press

GEOPHYSICAL RESEARCH LETTERS, doi:10.1029/2012GL052166

Degradation of the organic molecules in the shallow subsurface of Mars due to irradiation by cosmic rays.

Key Points
  • Cosmic rays is a key factor for the degradation of organic molecules on Mars
  • Solar CR are critically important for degradation in the top 2 cm of rocks
  • Only 100 amu organic compounds have a good chance to survive cosmic ray exposure

Authors:

Alexander A. Pavlov

Gennady Vasilyev

Valery M. Ostryakov

Anatoli K. Pavlov

Paul R. Mahaffy

Detection of the organic matter on Mars is one of the main goals of the future Martian landing missions. Yet, the degradation of organic molecules by cosmic ray irradiation on Mars is often ignored. We calculate the radiation dose accumulation rates from solar and galactic cosmic rays at various depths in the shallow Martian subsurface. We demonstrate that a 1-billion-year outcrop on Mars accumulates the dosage of ~500 MGy in the top 0-2 cm and ~50 MGy at 5-10 cm depths. We show that the preservation of ancient complex organic molecules in the shallow (~10 cm depth) subsurface of rocks could be highly problematic if the exposure age of a geologic outcrop would exceed 300 Myr. We demonstrate that more simple organic molecules with masses ~100 amu should have a good chance to survive in the shallow subsurface. Implications to the sampling strategy for the oncoming Martian missions are discussed.

Received 25 April 2012; accepted 31 May 2012.

Citation: Pavlov, A. A., G. Vasilyev, V. M. Ostryakov, A. K. Pavlov, and P. R. Mahaffy (2012), Degradation of the organic molecules in the shallow subsurface of Mars due to irradiation by cosmic rays., Geophys. Res. Lett., doi:10.1029/2012GL052166, in press.