The Atacama Desert as Mars analog and extraterrestrial dust trap
Alessandro Airo and Jenny Feige
Center for Astronomy and Astrophysics, Technische Universität Berlin, Berlin, Germany

Atacama Desert belongs to the driest places on Earth and its soils represent an analog for the extremely dry surface of Mars, where the hyper-arid conditions are one of the main obstacles for life to exist. Furthermore, the stable climate conditions in the Atacama Desert over millions of years have allowed for a continuous accumulation of atmospheric dust resulting in sedimentary records that represent an ideal trap for interplanetary and interstellar material. We have collected samples from a 4.20 m deep Atacama playa soil profile that reach back millions of years in time. We investigate the correlation of microbial community vs. climatic shifts, search for micrometeorites and for the first continental 60Fe-signature of nearby supernovae, which left their traces at 2-3 Myr and 6-8 Myr ago.