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Journal of Applied Remote Sensing • Open Access

High sensitivity trace gas sensor for planetary atmospheres: miniaturized Mars methane monitor
Author(s): Christoph R. Englert; Michael H. Stevens; Charles M. Brown; John M. Harlander; Robert DeMajistre; Kenneth D. Marr

Paper Abstract

Highly sensitive trace gas measurements in planetary atmospheres can yield information about a planet’s atmosphere and surface. One prominent example is methane in the Martian atmosphere, which could originate biogenically and provides answers to one of the most intriguing questions in planetary science: “Does life currently exist on Mars?” Recently, <italic<in situ</italic< measurements by the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) have resulted in an upper limit of 1300 parts per trillion by volume (pptv), whereas previous measurements using terrestrial telescopes and an instrument orbiting Mars reported significantly higher values of 10,000 pptv or more. These results are not necessarily contradictory, due to the possibility of spatial and temporal variability of the trace gas concentration. Thus, more measurements will be required to gain clarity. The concept of a miniaturized Mars methane monitor, a high spectral resolution, midinfrared spectrometer observing the sun through the Mars atmosphere from either the Mars surface, a Mars balloon or plane, or a Mars orbiting satellite is presented. The instrument would measure atmospheric methane and water vapor volume mixing ratios with equal or higher precision than the tunable laser spectrometer on MSL. The spectrometer concept uses the spatial heterodyne spectroscopy technique, which has previously been used for ground- and space-based observations of the Earth’s atmosphere.

Paper Details

Date Published: 20 May 2014
PDF: 15 pages
J. Appl. Remote Sens. 8(1) 083625 doi: 10.1117/1.JRS.8.083625
Published in: Journal of Applied Remote Sensing Volume 8, Issue 1
Show Author Affiliations
Christoph R. Englert, U.S. Naval Research Lab. (United States)
Michael H. Stevens, U.S. Naval Research Lab. (United States)
Charles M. Brown, U.S. Naval Research Lab. (United States)
John M. Harlander, St. Cloud State Univ. (United States)
Robert DeMajistre, Johns Hopkins Univ. Applied Physics Lab., LLC (United States)
Kenneth D. Marr, National Academy of Sciences (United States)

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