Scientists have created a new laser in hopes of finding life beyond Earth, which could finally put an end to the decades-long search to confirm the existence of aliens.
According to reports, the NASA-funded program at the University of Maryland shows that laser technology can confirm signs of life. In addition, the laser can also study certain materials from outer space.
“The good thing about a laser source is that anything that can be ionized can be analyzed,” said Ricardo Arevalo. He’s a professor of geology at the University of Maryland and the lead study author.
He continued: “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.”
The new technology features a laser desorption mass spectrometry (LDMS) tool, which can remove bits of materials from a sample. In addition, it also includes an “Orbitrap,” which is an analyzer that can study the material’s specific chemistry.
However, to use the technology on a spacecraft, scientists had to shrink the laser down to just 17 pounds. To do this, scientists first shrunk a commercial-only system. Then, they created one that could travel in space for up to eight years.
“The Orbitrap was originally built for commercial use,” Arevalo added.
New laser technology gets us one step closer to confirming the existence of aliens
“You can find them in the labs of pharmaceutical, medical and proteomic industries,” he continued. “The one in my own lab is just under 400 pounds. So they’re quite large. And it took us eight years to make a prototype that could be used efficiently in space — significantly smaller and less resource-intensive, but still capable of cutting-edge science.”
The goal is that this technology can hopefully find and confirm alien life.
Before, scientists used different tools and technology to find life outside Earth. In the past, scientists looked for traces of methane or radio energy in the atmosphere. In addition, in 2022, scientists also discovered a “Goldilocks” planet with similar features to Earth, meaning it could sustain life.
However, previous technology has found more minor chemicals associated with life, including amino acids, yet that doesn’t mean lifeforms necessarily exist. But with this new laser technology, we can know precisely if life is out there.
“We know now that larger and more complex molecules, like proteins, are more likely to have been created by or associated with living systems,” Arevalo said. “The laser lets us study larger and more complex organics that can reflect higher fidelity biosignatures than smaller, simpler compounds.”