An ultraviolet simulator for the incident Martian surface radiation and its applications

Kolb, C.; Abart, R.; Berces, A.; Garry, J. C.; Hansen, A. A.; Hohenau, W.; Kargl, G.; Lammer, H.; Patel, M.; Rettberg, P. and Stan-Lotter, H. (2005). An ultraviolet simulator for the incident Martian surface radiation and its applications. International Journal of Astrobiology, 4(3-4) pp. 241–249.



Ultraviolet (UV) radiation can act on putative organic/biological matter at the Martian surface in several ways. Only absorbed, but not transmitted or reflected, radiation energy can be photo-chemically effective. The most important biological UV effects are due to photochemical reactions in nucleic acids, DNA or RNA, which constitute the genetic material of all cellular organisms and viruses. Protein or lipid effects generally play a minor role, but they are also relevant in some cases. UV radiation can induce wavelengths-specific types of DNA damage. At the same time it can also induce the photo-reversion reaction of a UV induced DNA photoproduct of nucleic acid bases, the pyrimidine dimers. Intense UVB and UVC radiation, experienced on early Earth and present-day Mars, has been revealed to be harmful to all organisms, including extremophile bacteria and spores. Moreover, the formation of oxidants, catalytically produced in the Martian environment through UV irradiation, may be responsible for the destruction of organic matter on Mars. Following this, more laboratory simulations are vital in order to investigate and understand UV effects on organic matter in the case of Mars. We have designed a radiation apparatus that simulates the anticipated Martian UV surface spectrum between 200 and 400 nm (UVC-UVA). The system comprises a UV enhanced xenon arc lamp, special filter-sets and mirrors to simulate the effects of the Martian atmospheric column and dust loading. We describe the technical setup and performance of the system and discuss its uses for different applications. The design is focused on portability, therefore, the Mars-UV simulator represents a device for several different Mars simulation facilities with specific emphasis on Mars research topics.

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