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Proceedings Paper

Periodic analysis of the Viking Lander Labeled Release experiment
Author(s): Joseph D. Miller; Patricia A. Straat; Gilbert V. Levin
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Paper Abstract

Did Viking Lander biology experiments detect life on Mars? The strongest evidence for biology resulted from the Labeled Release (LR) experiment1. A radiolabeled (14C) nutrient solution was added to a Martian soil sample and the subsequent evolution of radioactive gas was observed. Flight data showed an initial release of labeled gas followed by strong periodic fluctuations in amount of gas in the headspace above the soil, superimposed on a slow rise in release. Current analyses show, at steady state, these fluctuations exhibit a periodicity of 24.66+/- 0.27 hr, statistically indistinguishable from the Martian solar period. The gas fluctuation appears synchronized to a mean 2 degree(s)C periodic fluctuation in internal temperature in the experimental chamber, which in turn is synchronous with almost 50 degree(s)C daily fluctuations in ambient Mars surface temperature. Calculations based on LR data indicate that the daily gas fluctuation amplitude could be in part accounted for by change in temperature-dependent soil solubility of CO2, but total amount of gas accumulated cannot be accounted for in this way. Recent observations of circadian rhythmicity in microorganisms and entrainment of terrestrial circadian rhythms by low amplitude temperature cycles argue that a Martian circadian rhythm in the LR experiment may constitute a biosignature.

Paper Details

Date Published: 5 February 2002
PDF: 12 pages
Proc. SPIE 4495, Instruments, Methods, and Missions for Astrobiology IV, (5 February 2002); doi: 10.1117/12.454748
Show Author Affiliations
Joseph D. Miller, Univ. of Southern California (United States)
Patricia A. Straat, Consultant (United States)
Gilbert V. Levin, Spherix Inc. (United States)


Published in SPIE Proceedings Vol. 4495:
Instruments, Methods, and Missions for Astrobiology IV
Richard B. Hoover; Gilbert V. Levin; Roland R. Paepe; Alexei Yu. Rozanov, Editor(s)

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