NASA Develops New Liquid-Based Test For Finding Alien Life On Ocean Worlds

Posted: Jan 31 2017, 7:45am CST | by , Updated: Jan 31 2017, 7:47am CST, in News | Latest Science News

 

NASA Develops New Liquid-Based Test for Finding Alien Life on Ocean Worlds
Mono Lake, California, with salt pillars known as "tufas" visible. JPL scientists tested new methods for detecting chemical signatures of life in the salty waters here, believing them to be analogs for water on Mars or ocean worlds like Europa. Credits: Mono County Tourism
  • Novel Criteria Announced for the Existence of Alien Life Forms on Other Planets
 

A whole set of novel criteria have been announced by NASA for the existence of alien life forms on other planets. They involve a chemistry test that just might save the day for space science.

A chemical test could determine whether aliens exist on other worlds in the universe. The technique is called capillary electrophoresis. It separates a mixture of organic molecules into their constituents.

The basic reason of existence for this test was the analysis of amino acids which are the stuff that life is made of. This methodology is 10,000 more accurate and finer than the present-day methods that are in vogue. It holds unlimited scope for the future.  

All that is needed in the way of raw materials for the test are a liquid sample from the planet in question. Besides this, the test is a pretty simple one and not complicated at all.

A liquid sample is mixed with a reagent and the answer comes out clear as the light of day. Also a laser has a role to play somewhere in the procedure. The laser beam detects the particles in the solution.

Although this test is not new (it began in the 80s) this is the very first time that it has been used to detect liquid samples from places that resemble barren planets in outer space.  

Amino acids are figured out via this scheme. They may be present in extremely low numbers yet still, the test will detect them. Therein lies its beauty and singularity.

The Mono Lake in California had its samples tested in this way. The lake’s alkaline waters make it difficult for life forms to thrive in it. Yet over 17 different amino acids were found in the samples. These amino acids are commonly found on the earth’s surface.

The main crux of detecting the amino acids was basically a process known as chirality. It consists of twin images of both left and right hemispheres in non living things. However, the molecular basis of the amino acids in living organisms is mainly left-sided in its nature.

Since life began in a liquid form on earth, this test goes to the roots of the problem and thus may hold the key to detecting life forms on other planets in the future. 

Findings of this new study, done by researchers from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California, got published in Analytical Chemistry.

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