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Early Mars Atmosphere

Project members: In addition to the continuing experimental work at UC Berkeley, collaborations are currently underway with R. Zare (Stanford) and G. Cooper (NASA Ames) to study the PAH composition and the 13C isotopic composition of the particles formed, respectively.

For the atmospheric photochemistry experimental work exploring how the formation of aerosol in the atmosphere of early Mars may have had a dramatic influence on climate and habitability (Co-PI Boering), a more sensitive quadrupole mass spectrometer was purchased and incorporated into the existing experimental apparatus for studying the kinetics of formation and optical properties of atmospheric aerosols in the laboratory.Recent experimental results from this year were presented by graduate student Mate Adamkovics (supported by NAI funds) in a talk at NASA’s Third Astrobiology Conference in April 2004 in which we found that particle formation by ultraviolet illumination can occur at considerably lower CH4-to-CO2 ratios than predicted by photochemical models, which may mean that organic aerosols may have had a larger influence on the climate of early Earth and early Mars than previously estimated.

Department of Astronomy    601 Campbell Hall    Berkeley, CA 94720-3411    510-643-2457