New laser could detect aliens living on distant planets
In order to detect life in outer space, the laser uses a powerful laser beam to search for signs of water, oxygen, and other biosignatures that could indicate the presence of life on a planet
January 18, 2023 7:00pm
Updated: February 19, 2023 2:11pm
Scientists at the University of Maryland have developed a new laser technology that could potentially detect alien life on distant planets.
Scientists hope that the NASA-backed research, which was published on Monday in the journal Nature Astronomy, could identify life and materials found on other planets.
In order to detect life in outer space, the laser uses a powerful laser beam to search for signs of water, oxygen, and other biosignatures that could indicate the presence of life on a planet.
Additionally, the new system combines laser desorption mass spectrometry (LDMS) technology, which can remove small samples of materials, and an "Orbitrap," an analyzer that can determine the chemistry of the material.
“The good thing about a laser source is that anything that can be ionized can be analyzed,” lead study author Ricardo Arevalo, a UMD associate professor of geology, said in a statement. “If we shoot our laser beam at an ice sample, we should be able to characterize the composition of the ice and see biosignatures in it.”
“This tool has such a high-mass resolution and accuracy that any molecular or chemical structures in a sample become much more identifiable,” he added.
To get the laser onboard spacecraft for space missions, scientists shrunk it down to only 17 pounds over eight years. In order to do that they used a system that was built for commercial use and can be found in laboratories around the world.
The research team is now planning to test the laser on nearby exoplanets that are considered to be potentially habitable, with the hope of finding signs of life in the near future.