The creative scientific device named the Compact Color Biofinder, created by a team of University of Hawai’i at Mānoa researchers, might change the game in the search for signs of extraterrestrial life.
Most biological equipment, for instance, amino acids, fossils, sedimentary rocks, plants, microbes, proteins, and lipids, have powerful organic fluorescence signals that can be observed by specialized scanning cameras. In a study recently published in Nature Scientific Reports, the research team announced that the Biofinder is so sensitive that it can precisely detect the bio-residue in fish fossils from the 34-56 million-year-old Green River formation.
“The Biofinder is the first system of its kind,” said Anupam Misra. He is the lead instrument developer and researcher at the Hawai’i Institute of Geophysics and Planetology at the UH Mānoa School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology (SOEST). “At present, there is no other equipment that can detect minute amounts of bio-residue on a rock during the daytime. Additional strengths of the Biofinder are that it works from a distance of several meters, takes video and can quickly scan a large area.”
“The Biofinder’s capabilities would be critical for NASA’s Planetary Protection program, for the accurate and no-invasive detection of contaminants such as microbes or extraterrestrial biohazards to or from planet Earth,” announced Sonia J. Rowley, the team biologist and co-author of the study.
Misra and colleagues are trying to have the chance to send the Biofinder on a future NASA mission.
“The detection of such biomarkers would constitute groundbreaking evidence for life outside planet Earth,” said Misra.