NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) is creating a chemical to test for extraterrestrial soil that would expose whether a planet has alien life form or not. They claim that the developing test, when it is properly implemented, would be 10,000 times more sensitive than their existing methods.
In the process, a robotic review would be conducted on the collected soil from a planet; for example, Mars. The soil is then mixed with a chemical, and the mixture will be placed under a powerful laser that uses an electromagnetic field to separate and identify the fundamental molecules. Like amino acids, the building blocks of carbon-based life, if present in the soil, would be detected.
The New Method Is Far More Effective Than The Current Method They've Been Using
More than experimental, NASA has tested the technique in California's Mono Lake, which has a very high level of salinity and alkalinity, successfully identifying 17 distinct amino acids from a single water sample.
The technique is known as capillary electrophoresis. A capillary is a thin tube, while electrophoresis is a technique by which electric fields isolates the molecules by size and electrical charge. It is most frequently used in forensic science to separate DNA samples from infection.
"Our method improves on previous attempts by increasing the number of amino acids that can be detected in a single run," said JPL postdoctoral student and study lead Jessica Creamer, in a statement. "Additionally, it allows us to detect these amino acids at very low concentrations, even in highly salty samples, with a very simple 'mix and analyze' process."
"The technique can determine between amino acids that are present in organic life and those that are not", said investigator Peter Willis.
According to the JPL website, the "key to detecting amino acids correlated to life is an aspect known as 'chirality.' Chiral molecules such as amino acids come in two forms that are alike to one another. Granting amino acids from non-living sources contain about some equal amounts of the 'left' and 'right'-handed forms, amino acids from living creatures on Earth are almost entirely 'left-handed' form."
Capillary electrophoresis can determine the chirality of the molecules it examines, allowing NASA to sort amino acids into organic and inorganic molecules.
NASA Is Now In Route To Reveal Alien Life Form From Other Planets
JPL is very excited about their findings, as finding microscopic life on a massive planet would be difficult if not. "Life on Mars" would be the astronomical find of the century, but the planet's surface compresses about 54 million square miles, almost as much land as Earth has, and the technique could be more likely easier to hunt down life.
"One of NASA's primary objectives is to search for life in the universe," Willis said. "Our best timing of finding life is by using powerful liquid-based studies like this one on the ocean floor."