Space photo (archive)
Sunday, January 29, 2023 / 12:15
Scientists have developed a new laser device to detect aliens on other planets. The miniature device was designed for NASA space missions with the goal of revolutionizing the search for extraterrestrial life.
The Daily Star reports that the laser is much smaller and more resource efficient than its predecessors, without compromising the analysis of biological activity and planetary samples at the site.
The machine, which weighs only about 17 lbs (7.7 kg), is a miniature combination of two tools. The pulsed ultraviolet laser removes small amounts of material. Then a scanner called Orbitrap delivers high-resolution data about its chemical composition.
“Orbitrap was originally built for commercial use. You can find it in the laboratories of the pharmaceutical, medical and protein industries. It took us eight years to make a prototype that could be used efficiently in space,” said lead author of the study Professor Ricardo Arevalo from the University of Maryland.
While this technique has not yet been applied in an extraterrestrial planetary environment, Professor Arevalo said the device is streamlined for space exploration and analysis of planetary material in situ. The miniature LDMS Orbitrap will provide insight into future adventures in the outer solar system, including those focused on life detection and lunar surface exploration such as the NASA Artemis program.
Scientists hope to send the device into space and deploy it to a planetary target within a few years. “I view this prototype as an explorer for other future LDMS and Orbitrap-based instruments,” Professor Arevalo said. “Our miniature Orbitrap LDMS instrument has the potential to improve the way we currently study the geochemistry or astrobiology of the planet’s surface.”
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