I'm personally interested in the biological implications of different isotope variations on biology. This can be tested on earth by separating them and just observing, but determining the isotope variations on other planets is what I'm not sure about.

I know the Curiosity rover can do a range of experiments and chemical analyses, but I'm not super familiar with them.

Can Curiosity test for isotope variations in martian soil?

If not, is there any other known way of testing for isotope variations, maybe through observation through a telescope (I really don't know), or possibly knowledge about the historical formation of the universe and solar system (I'm not an astronomer)?


Curiosity's Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) Instrument Suite has both a mass spectrometer, which can identify different isotopes, and a tunable laser spectrometer, which can also be used for isotope abundance measurements, as explained in Emily Lakdawalla's detailed blogpost More than you probably wanted to know about Curiosity's SAM instrument. Of particular note are the Carbon, Hydrogen, and Oxygen isotopes, but it should be able to detect others.

Remote sensing of isotopes is difficult. It hasn't been demonstrated in terrestrial, yet alone extraterrestrial applications, but it is being studied currently.


Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.