5 February 2002 Periodic analysis of the Viking Lander Labeled Release experiment
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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.
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Joseph D. Miller, Patricia A. Straat, Gilbert V. Levin, "Periodic analysis of the Viking Lander Labeled Release experiment", Proc. SPIE 4495, Instruments, Methods, and Missions for Astrobiology IV, (5 February 2002); doi: 10.1117/12.454748; https://doi.org/10.1117/12.454748
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