Glycine Identification in Natural Jarosites Using Laser Desorption Fourier Transform Mass Spectrometry: Implications for the Search for Life on Mars

Status Report From: Mary Ann Liebert Inc.
Posted: Wednesday, April 9, 2008


The jarosite group minerals have received increasing attention since the discovery of jarosite on the martian surface by the Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity. Given that jarosite can incorporate foreign ions within its structure, we have investigated the use of jarosite as an indicator of aqueous and biological processes on Earth and Mars. The use of laser desorption Fourier transform mass spectrometry has revealed the presence of organic matter in several jarosite samples from various locations worldwide. One of the ions from the natural jarosites has been attributed to glycine because it was systematically observed in combinations of glycine with synthetic ammonium and potassium jarosites, Na2SO4 and K2SO4. The ability to observe these organic signatures in jarosite samples with an in situ instrumental technique, such as the one employed in this study, furthers the goals of planetary geologists to determine whether signs of life (e.g., the presence of biomolecules or biomolecule precursors) can be detected in the rock record of terrestrial and extraterrestrial samples. Astrobiology 8, 253-266.

Astrobiology April 1, 2008, 8(2): 253-266.

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