The latest issue of Philosophical Transactions A is dedicated to the use of Raman spectroscopy to identify microorganisms living in extreme environments, which could help in the search of life on Mars.
The barren landscape that features on the cover of the issue is a salt lake situated in Deep Springs Valley near the northern edge of Death Valley National Park. While the area appears to be devoid of life, microorganisms that have adapted to the high saline conditions thrive beneath the crust. Due to its interesting mineralogy, the salt lake was selected as a sampling area to test Raman instruments which can be used to identify biomarkers of microorganisms that live in these extreme environments. The work is particularly relevant as the forthcoming ESA/Roscomos 2018 ExoMars mission and the proposed NASA 2020 mission will both feature a Raman spectrometer as part of the payload, with the aim of identifying signs of life on Mars.
The image comes courtesy of Petr Vítek from Charles University in Prague who also contributes an article to the issue looking to show the potential of miniaturized Raman systems to detect biomolecular and mineral signals in geobiological samples.