If all goes according to plan, in 2020, NASA will launch a Rover to the red planet.
When it lands there, it will search for signs of past or present life on Mars.
To help astrobiologists to distinguish biological material from other compounds in the regolith of the planet, researchers from the University of Kansas propose to focus on the search for vanadium.
To search for fossilized remains of ancient Martian microorganisms, the Rover will search for carbon in soil samples using Raman spectroscopy, which measures the oscillations and, consequently, the composition of the molecules by studying the scattering of laser light reflected from the sample. But researchers from the University of Kansas say that this method can give incorrect results because it will not be able to distinguish between carbonaceous materials from fossilized remains of micro-organisms, and propose to use the method of x-ray fluorescence microscopy to search for samples of vanadium.
Vanadium is often the substances formed from biological samples. On Earth, for example, it is found in crude oil and black oil shale. Vanadium remains in the biological sample through the binding to chlorophyll, where it replaces the magnesium.
According to the Kansas scholars using their proposed method, you can avoid embarrassing mistakes when searching for traces of life on Mars.
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