Proposed Tasks of Enceladus Missions’ Instrumentation in the Context of Their Astrobiological Goals

eng Artykuł w języku angielskim DOI: 10.14313/PAR_238/47

Katarzyna Kubiak*, wyślij Jan Kotlarz*, Natalia Zalewska**, Urszula Zielenkiewicz*** * Łukasiewicz Research Network – Institute of Aviation ** Space Research Centre of the Polish Academy of Sciences *** Institute of Biochemistry and Biophysics of the Polish Academy of Sciences

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Abstract

Enceladus, Saturnian satellite, is a very significant object for astrobiologists due to the presence of liquid water that forms the ice-covered ocean. Water ice geysers escape from the south pole region through cracks in the ice shield. During the Cassini flight, the probe took samples of plumes matter recognizing besides other methane and molecular hydrogen. Since then, hypotheses have been formulated that life forms similar to those found in the Lost City Hydrothermal Field in the Atlantic ocean bottom may occur near Enceladus’ hydrothermal chimneys. In our work, we analyzed the possibility of a microbial factor detection in the Enceladus geysers. We used as model organisms selected extremophiles. We investigated multi-spectral cameras and mass spectrometers intended for use in mission proposals to Enceladus: Enceladus Orbiter, Enceladus Life Finder, The Explorer of Enceladus and Titan and THEO mission. The review pointed that the configuration of mass spectrometers and the proposed parameters of scientific orbits are appropriate for detecting volatile organic compounds corresponding to selected microorganisms such as aldehyde, ethanol, benzene, toluene, indole, or violacein. The possible presence of a microbiological component with physical dimensions in the order of several micrometres can only be observed for areas of geyser formation at their higher density (> 10 ppm) and with the occurrence of the “snowing microbes” phenomenon. We have found that particularly useful optical channels are 780–975 nm, 860–910 nm, and 5.0–5.3 µm.

Keywords

astrobiology, Enceladus, mass spectrometry, multispectral cameras

Proponowane zadania aparatury misji na Enceladus w kontekście ich celów astrobiologicznych

Streszczenie

Enceladus, księżyc Saturna, jest obiektem bardzo ważnym dla astrobiologów ze względu na obecność ciekłej wody, która tworzy ocean pokryty lodem. Gejzery lodu wodnego wydobywają się z regionu bieguna południowego przez pęknięcia w pokrywie lodowej. Sonda Cassini pobrała podczas lotu próbki pióropusza, rozpoznając, między innymi, metan i wodór cząsteczkowy. Od tamtej pory sformułowano hipotezy, że w pobliżu hydrotermalnych kominów Enceladusa mogą występować formy życia podobne do występujących w polu hydrotermalnym Lost City na dnie Atlantyku. W naszej pracy przeanalizowaliśmy możliwość wykrycia czynnika mikrobiologicznego w gejzerach Enceladusa. Posłużyliśmy się wybranymi ekstremofilami jako organizmami modelowymi. Przebadaliśmy kamery wielospektralne i spektrometry masowe przeznaczone do wykorzystania w proponowanych misjach do Enceladusa: Enceladus Orbiter, Enceladus Life Finder, The Explorer of Enceladus and Titan oraz misji THEO. Ich przegląd wykazał, że konfiguracja spektrometrów masowych oraz proponowane parametry orbit są odpowiednie do wykrywania lotnych związków organicznych odpowiadających wybranym mikroorganizmom, takich jak aldehyd, etanol, benzen, toluen, indol czy wiolaceina. Ewentualną obecność składnika mikrobiologicznego o wymiarach fizycznych rzędu kilku mikrometrów można zaobserwować jedynie dla obszarów formowania się gejzerów przy ich większej gęstości (>10 ppm) oraz przy występowaniu zjawiska „snowing microbes”. Stwierdziliśmy, że szczególnie przydatne kanały optyczne to 780–975 nm, 860–910 nm oraz 5,0–5,3 µm.

Słowa kluczowe

astrobiologia, Enceladus, kamery wielospektralne, spektrometria mas

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