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Organic Matter Responses to Radiation under Lunar Conditions

Matthewman, R; Crawford, IA; Jones, AP; Joy, KH; Sephton, MA; (2016) Organic Matter Responses to Radiation under Lunar Conditions. Astrobiology , 16 (11) pp. 900-912. 10.1089/ast.2015.1442. Green open access

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Abstract

Large bodies, such as the Moon, that have remained relatively unaltered for long periods of time have the potential to preserve a record of organic chemical processes from early in the history of the Solar System. A record of volatiles and impactors may be preserved in buried lunar regolith layers that have been capped by protective lava flows. Of particular interest is the possible preservation of prebiotic organic materials delivered by ejected fragments of other bodies, including those originating from the surface of early Earth. Lava flow layers would shield the underlying regolith and any carbon-bearing materials within them from most of the effects of space weathering, but the encapsulated organic materials would still be subject to irradiation before they were buried by regolith formation and capped with lava. We have performed a study to simulate the effects of solar radiation on a variety of organic materials mixed with lunar and meteorite analog substrates. A fluence of ∼3 × 1013 protons cm−2 at 4–13 MeV, intended to be representative of solar energetic particles, has little detectable effect on low-molecular-weight (≤C30) hydrocarbon structures that can be used to indicate biological activity (biomarkers) or the high-molecular-weight hydrocarbon polymer poly(styrene-co-divinylbenzene), and has little apparent effect on a selection of amino acids (≤C9). Inevitably, more lengthy durations of exposure to solar energetic particles may have more deleterious effects, and rapid burial and encapsulation will always be more favorable to organic preservation. Our data indicate that biomarker compounds that may be used to infer biological activity on their parent planet can be relatively resistant to the effects of radiation and may have a high preservation potential in paleoregolith layers on the Moon. Key Words: Radiation—Moon—Regolith—Amino acids—Biomarkers. Astrobiology 16, 900–912.

Type: Article
Title: Organic Matter Responses to Radiation under Lunar Conditions
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1089/ast.2015.1442
Publisher version: http://dx.doi.org/10.1089/ast.2015.1442
Language: English
Additional information: © Richard Matthewman et al. , 2016; Published by Mary Ann Liebert, Inc. This Open Access article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly credited.
Keywords: Science & Technology, Physical Sciences, Life Sciences & Biomedicine, Astronomy & Astrophysics, Biology, Geosciences, Multidisciplinary, Life Sciences & Biomedicine - Other Topics, Geology, Radiation, Moon, Regolith, Amino Acids, Biomarkers, Late Heavy Bombardment, Early Solar-System, Ionizing-Radiation, Ion Irradiation, Amino-Acids, Water Ice, Meteorites, Moon, Regolith, Environment
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS > Faculty of Maths and Physical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS > Faculty of Maths and Physical Sciences > Dept of Earth Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS > Faculty of Maths and Physical Sciences > Dept of Physics and Astronomy
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1533225
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