Send to

Choose Destination
Icarus. 2000 Aug;146(2):343-59.

The ultraviolet environment of Mars: biological implications past, present, and future.

Author information

NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, California 94035-1000, USA.
Desert Res Inst, Reno, NV


A radiative transfer model is used to quantitatively investigate aspects of the martian ultraviolet radiation environment, past and present. Biological action spectra for DNA inactivation and chloroplast (photosystem) inhibition are used to estimate biologically effective irradiances for the martian surface under cloudless skies. Over time Mars has probably experienced an increasingly inhospitable photobiological environment, with present instantaneous DNA weighted irradiances 3.5-fold higher than they may have been on early Mars. This is in contrast to the surface of Earth, which experienced an ozone amelioration of the photobiological environment during the Proterozoic and now has DNA weighted irradiances almost three orders of magnitude lower than early Earth. Although the present-day martian UV flux is similar to that of early Earth and thus may not be a critical limitation to life in the evolutionary context, it is a constraint to an unadapted biota and will rapidly kill spacecraft-borne microbes not covered by a martian dust layer. Microbial strategies for protection against UV radiation are considered in the light of martian photobiological calculations, past and present. Data are also presented for the effects of hypothetical planetary atmospheric manipulations on the martian UV radiation environment with estimates of the biological consequences of such manipulations.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

Supplemental Content

Loading ...
Support Center