NASA Scientists Shares New Technique On How To Effectively Find Life On MarsBy Emily Marks
Scientists at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) have come up with a new chemistry technique to finding life on Mars. This comes after SAM (Sample Analysis at Mars) and other instruments sent to the Red Planet were unable to find anything that may have started life on Earth's neighbor.
Quartz reported that SAM may not have been sensitive enough to detect for signs of life on Mars. It is believed that molecules that are the precursor of life could be in much lower concentrations, like 10 parts per billion.
That's why Peter Willis and other researchers in NASA's JPL came up with a technique that is 10,000 times more sensitive than that of SAM's. Their study is published in the journal "Analytical Chemistry."
With the technique, a sample of soil is steeped in water and heated which causes chemicals to come out of the soil and into the water. Afterwards, the extracted chemicals are mixed with a specific fluorescent dye that reacts and tags amino acids only.
Lastly, a laser is beamed on the mixture and the amino acids shine. This will help computers detect the presence of these chemicals.
According to CDA News, the technique is known as laser-induced fluorescence detection. It had been used to look for amino acids in salty water from places on Earth. One example of which is Mono Lake in California.
This new chemistry technique can detect 17 types of amino acids present in the soil all at once. These set of chemicals form one of the most important building blocks of life. Current techniques are only able to detect 12.
Another significance of this technique is that it is able to differentiate what proportion of the mixture is made of simple amino acids and complex amino acids. The former can be made by non-living processes while the latter can provide the strongest evidence of life.