Instrumentation development for planetary in situ 40Ar/39Ar geochronology

Morgan, L., Davidheiser-Kroll, B., Munk, M., van Bibber, K., Harkness, P. , Lee, M., Wright, I., Gupta, S. and Mark, D. (2014) Instrumentation development for planetary in situ 40Ar/39Ar geochronology. In: Goldschmidt Conference, Sacramento, CA USA, 8-13 June 2014,

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Publisher's URL: http://goldschmidt.info/2014/abstracts/abstractView?abstractId=1916

Abstract

The key to understanding the history of planetary and asteroidal bodies is the accurate and precise determination of the timescale over which they developed. Absolute dating of planetary materials remains a primary goal of planetary research. Given the success of recent unmanned missions to Mars (e.g., Spirit, Opportunity, Curiosity) in understanding geological processes, development of an <i>in situ</i> numerical dating instrument packages for future robotic missions is a logical next step. Several ongoing programs of research are seeking to develop instrument packages for <i>in situ</i> application of the K-Ar technique (e.g., [1,2]). For terrestrial rocks, the K-Ar method has largely been replaced by the <sup>40</sup>Ar/<sup>39</sup>Ar technique, which can determine thermal histories and provide internal reliability assurance. The <sup>40</sup>Ar/<sup>39</sup>Ar method is the most promising geochronometer for obtaining accurate ages and thermal histories for rocks on the Martian surface but relies on the <sup>39</sup>K(n,p)<sup>39</sup>Ar reaction so that <sup>39</sup>Ar can be measured as a proxy for the parent element K. As the mass and power requirements of a nuclear reactor are not compatible with spaceflight, an alternative neutron source must be employed. Here, we examine the potential of <sup>252</sup>Cf, which generates neutrons through its decay by spontaneous fission. We will present initial results from neutron modeling and technological considerations towards the development of an <i>in situ</i> dating package, including a <sup>252</sup>Cf neutron source, a subcritical <sup>235</sup>U neutron multiplier, quadrupole noble gas mass spectrometry, and sample drilling and handling strategies.

Item Type:Conference Proceedings
Status:Published
Refereed:Yes
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Morgan, Dr Leah and Mark, Professor Darren and Harkness, Dr Patrick
Authors: Morgan, L., Davidheiser-Kroll, B., Munk, M., van Bibber, K., Harkness, P., Lee, M., Wright, I., Gupta, S., and Mark, D.
College/School:College of Science and Engineering > School of Engineering > Systems Power and Energy
College of Science and Engineering > Scottish Universities Environmental Research Centre

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