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Production of molecules with astrobiological interest in experiments simulating the moon Enceladus in the presence of UV photons, X-rays, electrons, and fast ions

Grant number: 12/17248-2
Support Opportunities:Scholarships in Brazil - Doctorate
Effective date (Start): November 01, 2012
Effective date (End): February 28, 2015
Field of knowledge:Interdisciplinary Subjects
Principal Investigator:Sergio Pilling Guapyassu de Oliveira
Grantee:Alexandre Bergantini de Souza
Host Institution: Instituto de Pesquisa e Desenvolvimento (IP&D). Universidade do Vale do Paraíba (UNIVAP). São José dos Campos , SP, Brazil
Associated research grant:09/18304-0 - Synthesis and degradation of prebiotic molecular species at planetary atmospheres, comets and interstellar ice analogs, AP.JP


Enceladus, one of Saturn's satellites, is covered by ice and snow, and its surface temperature varies between 60 and 160 K. Despite being frozen, Enceladus has great geological activity in the south polar region, where there is emission of gases and dust in the form of a plume, composed mainly by N2, CH4, CO2, and H2O. These molecules are very important from the prebiotic point of view . Probably Enceladus has an ocean of liquid water beneath the frozen surface. The objective of this research project is to simulate in the laboratory the possible scenarios resulting from the action of ionizing agents, such as UV photons, electrons, light and heavy ions, at the surface and in the plume of Enceladus, analyzing qualitatively and quantitatively the destruction and formation of chemical species, both it the surface and just below it, reproducing in laboratory the temperature gradients, concentration of molecules, and rates of incident radiation and particles. Such experiments will be conducted in chambers of ultra-high vacuum, at low temperatures. The results will be obtained by infrared spectroscopy (FTIR), mass spectrometry and gas chromatography (GC-MS). The experiments will be conducted at the Astrochemistry and Astrobiology Laboratory (UNIVAP), funded by FAPESP project JP 2009/18304-0, and further experiments will be carried out in laboratories with which the research group maintains collaboration, such as LNLS-Campinas, GANIL-France, PUC-Rio and Keck-Hawaii. The research will clarify some chemical processes involving prebiotic molecules on this moon, placing important pieces in the puzzle of the origin of life in the Solar System.

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Scientific publications
(References retrieved automatically from Web of Science and SciELO through information on FAPESP grants and their corresponding numbers as mentioned in the publications by the authors)
RACHID, MARINA G.; FAQUINE, KARLA; PILLING, S.. Destruction of C2H4O2 isomers in ice-phase by X-rays: Implication on the abundance of acetic acid and methyl formate in the interstellar medium. Planetary and Space Science, v. 149, n. SI, p. 83-93, . (12/17248-2, 09/18304-0, 14/08643-0, 16/11334-5)
BERGANTINI, A.; PILLING, S.; NAIR, B. G.; MASON, N. J.; FRASER, H. J.. Processing of analogues of plume fallout in cold regions of Enceladus by energetic electrons. Astronomy & Astrophysics, v. 570, . (12/17248-2, 09/18304-0)

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