The UV environment of the Beagle 2 landing site: detailed investigations and detection of atmospheric state

Patel, Manish; Christou, A.A.; Cockell, Charles; Ringrose, Tim and Zarnecki, John (2004). The UV environment of the Beagle 2 landing site: detailed investigations and detection of atmospheric state. Icarus, 168(1) pp. 93–115.



December 25th 2003 will see the Beagle 2 lander arrive at the surface of Mars in the Isidis region, allowing for the first time in situ measurements of ultraviolet (UV) flux directly from the surface of Mars through the use of a sensor designed as part of a miniaturised environmental package. The expected conditions the sensor will experience are studied here, and the detection signatures for phenomenon such as dust devils, H2O clouds ands near-surface fogs are presented. The beginning and end of mission surface fluxes show little variation, though the period towards mid-nominal mission does experience a maximum in total daily dose levels. Diurnal profiles are calculated highlighting the effects of increased scattering towards shorter wavelengths. A possible dust storm scenario is presented, and the effect upon component UV fluxes is shown to reverse the relative contributions of direct and diffuse components of the total UV flux. The presence of cloud formation above the landing site will be detectable though the observation of elevated diffuse/direct flux ratios. Near-surface morning fogs show a characteristic ‘dip’ in the morning profile when compared to clear mornings, allowing their detection on cloud-free mornings through post-event analysis of long term data. Predicted Phobos eclipses are investigated at each of the sensor centre wavelengths, and show greatest reduction in relative intensity at short wavelengths. Observations of near-miss eclipse events will also be possible, through monitoring of the diffuse UV flux. Dust devil encounters are shown to create a double minima lightcurve, with the depth of the minima dependent upon the total dust loading of the vortex. The effects of these changing conditions on DNA-weighted irradiances are investigated. Possible dust storms provide the greatest increase in biological protection, whereas expected cloud formations at the Beagle 2 site are found to offer negligible protection. Within just five minutes of landing >95% of any Bacillus subtilis-like bacteria present on the surface of the craft will have lost viability.

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