Avoiding misidentification of bands in planetary Raman spectra

Liam V. Harris*, Melissa McHugh, Ian B. Hutchinson, Richard Ingley, Cédric Malherbe, John Parnell, Alison Olcott Marshall, Howell G M Edwards

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)


Raman spectroscopy has been identified as a powerful tool for astrobiology and remote robotic planetary exploration. It can be used to identify and characterise rock matrices, mineral inclusions and organic molecules and is demonstrably effective at identifying biomarkers, or indicators of biological activity. The ExoMars rover, jointly operated by the European and Russian Federal Space Agencies, will carry the first Raman spectrometer into space when it launches in 2018 and two further Raman instruments have recently been announced as part of the payload onboard the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's Mars 2020 rover. Each of these spectrometers however will, by necessity, have poorer resolution than the most sophisticated laboratory instruments because of mass, volume and power constraints and the space readiness of the requisite technologies. As a result, it is important to understand the minimum instrument specification required to achieve the scientific objectives of a mission, in terms of parameters such as spectral resolution and laser footprint size. This requires knowledge of the target minerals and molecules between which there may be ambiguity when identifying bands in spectra from geological samples. Here, we present spectra from a number of Mars analogue samples that include a range of such molecules, highlighting where such confusion may occur and identifying the most useful bands for differentiation. It is recommended that a Raman spectrometer achieves a resolution of at least 3cm-1 and covers a spectral range from 100 to 4000cm-1 in order to differentiate between all of the target molecules presented here.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)863-872
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Raman Spectroscopy
Issue number10
Early online date4 Mar 2015
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2015

Bibliographical note

L. V. H. acknowledges studentship support from the STFC Research Council and M. M. acknowledges studentship support from the European Space Agency through the Network/ Partnership scheme. I. B. H., R. I. and H. G. M. E. acknowledge the support of the STFC Research Council and the UK Space Agency in the UK ExoMars programme. C. M. acknowledges support from the University of Liège. A.O.M. acknowledges support from NSF grant EAR-1053241. We also acknowledge Prof. Arnoud Boom and Dr Andrew S. Carr from the Department of Geography at the University of Leicester for the provision of the desert varnish samples.


  • astrobiology
  • geological analogues
  • planetary exploration
  • space missions
  • spectral band assignment


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