31st Annual Meeting of the DPS, October 1999
Session 71. Mars Atmosphere: Chemistry I
Contributed Oral Parallel Session, Friday, October 15, 1999, 11:40-12:00noon, Sala Plenaria

[Previous] | [Session 71] | [Next]

[71.01] Impact Delivery of Organics to Mars

E. Pierazzo (LPL), C. F. Chyba (SETI)

Apart from Earth, Mars is the most likely planet in our solar system to search for evidence of present or past life. In the case of Earth, in a recent study we concluded that impact delivery of organics, in particular amino acids, could have played an important role in the organic inventory of the early Earth. This was a result more optimistic with respect to organic impact survival than was found in much, though not all, previous work. Here we present the first results of an analogous study for Mars.

We carried out high resolution simulations of asteroid and comet impacts on the Martian surface, using the 2D finite differences hydrocode CSQ coupled to the ANEOS equation of state package. We modeled spherical asteroids (dunite and serpentine equation of state) and comets (ice equation of state) 2-km in diameter. Impact velocities range between 7.7 and 10 km/s for the asteroid simulations, and between 15 and 20 km/s for the comet simulations, covering both median and mean impact velocities for Mars-crossing asteroids and short-period comets respectively. Besides the lower impact velocities, the main difference with the terrestrial simulations are the lower gravity and lower surface temperature of Mars, as well as the absence of an ocean. A very thin atmosphere was included in the simulations for Mars, although it has been suggested that a thick atmosphere could have been present early in Martian history. Following the same procedure used in the study of impact delivery on Earth, temperature histories from Lagrangian tracers in the projectile were used in conjunction with known kinetic parameters for amino acids in the solid phase to calculate amino acids survivability during an impact event.

Analogous to our results for the Earth, the simulations suggest substantial survival for some amino acids in comet impacts on Mars. Asteroid impacts, however, do not seem to result in significant survival, even in the 7.7 km/s impact simulations.

The author(s) of this abstract have provided an email address for comments about the abstract: betty@lpl.arizona.edu

[Previous] | [Session 71] | [Next]