National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has developed a new spectroscopy instrument to detect compounds and minerals linked with alien life more quickly than with the earlier instruments.
NASA’s Planetary Exploration Program is all about finding evidence of alien life on other planets, though no such firm evidence has yet been found.
The details of the new system are listed in the Applied Optics journal. The system improves on an analytical technique called micro Raman spectroscopy.
The technique interacts with laser light and a sample to provide chemical composition information on a microscopic scale.
According to the study, the system can detect organic compounds like amino acids found in living organisms and identify the minerals formed by biochemical processes on Earth that might indicate life on other planets.
M Nurul Abedin of NASA’s Langley Research Centre, who led the team, said, “Our instrument is one of the most advanced Raman spectrometers ever developed. It overcomes some of the key limitations of traditional micro Raman instruments and is designed to serve as an ideal instrument for future missions that use rovers or landers to explore the surface of Mars or Jupiter's icy Europa moon.”
The new system is named standoff ultra-compact micro Raman (SUCR) instrument and was developed by NASA in collaboration with the University of Hawaii.
While designing the SUCR instrument, the size and weight of it were considered important.
Abedin said, “We had to make sure the instrument was very small and light so that it could travel aboard a small, fuel-efficient spaceship that would make the nine-month journey to Mars or the six-year journey to Europa.”
“The instrument must also work with other instruments aboard a rover or lander and be unaffected by the harsh radiation conditions found on other planets,” Abedin added.