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NASA’s New Tool Can Help In Finding Aliens On Europa

First Posted: Feb 03, 2017 03:50 AM EST
Europa
A new technique tailored by NASA can help in searching for extraterrestrial life on Jupiter's moon Europa.
(Photo : NASA Goddard/YouTube screenshot)

A new test developed by NASA scientists could improve their chances of detecting aliens, albeit in the form of extraterrestrial microbes, according to a recent report. The team of scientists have created a chemistry technique to observe the patterns of amino acid, also known as the building blocks of life, by developing a tool to sniff out alien biosignatures in just a few grams of seawater.

According to a Gizmodo report, the newly created technique is 10,000 times more sensitive than similar methods used by NASA's Mars Curiosity rover. In addition, the newly tailored method is ideal for hunting for signs of life in Jupiter's moon Europa as well as Saturn's Enceladus.

"The astrobiology community has recognized amino acids as uniquely interesting targets in the search for life," said Peter Willis, study's lead author. "However, the technologies available for performing these analyses are lacking in terms of sensitivity and the number of amino acids that can be analyzed, particularly in the area of chiral analysis."

However, by determining the chirality, the new technique will offer a rapid and sensitive test for alien biological activity. Furthermore, the process can differentiate between 17 types of common amino acids at really low concentrations.

The research team at NASA has already tested the technique at the salty and alkaline Mono Lake in California, which is said to be chemically similar to the Enceladus' ocean. Some time in the future, the scientists want to send the tool on a spacecraft to look for signs of life elsewhere in the Solar System.

Jonathane Lunine, an astronomer at Cornell University, has cautioned that the new technique has to be tested more and proven before it is ready to be sent out in space, though. Furthermore, apart from chiral molecules, other indicators such as hydrocarbon patterns will be required to know that scientists have found extraterrestrial life.

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