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Near-Infrared (NIR) Raman Spectroscopy of Precambrian Carbonate Stromatolites with Post-Depositional Organic Inclusions

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Raman spectroscopy has promising potential for future Mars missions as a non-contact detection technique for characterizing organic material and mineralogy. Such a capability will be useful for selecting samples for detailed analysis on a rover and for selecting samples for return to Earth. Stromatolites are important evidence for the earliest life on Earth and are promising targets for Mars investigations. Although constructed by microorganisms, stromatolites are organo-sedimentary structures that can be large enough to be discovered and investigated by a Mars rover. In this paper, we report the Raman spectroscopic investigations of the carbonate mineralogy and organic layering in a Precambrian (∼1.5 Gyr old) stromatolite from the Crystal Spring Formation of Southern California. Ultraviolet (UV: 266 nm), visible (514 nm, 633 nm), and near-infrared (NIR: 785 nm, 1064 nm) Raman spectra are presented. We conclude that 1064 nm excitation is the optimal excitation wavelength for avoiding intrinsic fluorescence and detecting organic carbon within the carbonate matrix. Our results confirm that NIR Raman spectroscopy has important applications for future Mars missions.

Keywords: Astrobiology; Mars; Raman spectroscopy; Stromatolites

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Department of Electrical Engineering, UC Santa Cruz, Santa Cruz, CA 95060 USA

Publication date: August 1, 2012

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