Holograms Might Help Search for Alien Life

If a space probe detected microbial life on another planet, would scientists know it when they saw it?

A new paper by JPL and Caltech researchers looks at how holographic imaging might be used to detect microbes — including those on other planets.
Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech.

Identifying bacteria by sight is challenging enough on Earth, even for experts. To the naked eye, bacteria look like featureless blobs — not unlike the mineral grains that might surround them in a sample.

A form of holographic imaging could help. A new paper in the journal Astrobiology highlights a detection method called digital holographic microscopy, which uses laser light to capture 3-D images. Whereas standard microscopes can only view a thin slice of a drop of water, this method adds more depth.

The paper was co-authored by Chris Lindensmith of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California; Jay Nadeau of Caltech; and Manuel Bedrossian, a Caltech graduate student.

Source: JPL

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