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Laser could aid search for life on Mars

disclaimer: image is for illustration purposes only
by Staff Writers
Idaho Falls, Idaho (UPI) Oct 21, 2008
U.S. government scientists say they've developed technology that enables a laser to detect minuscule traces of cells in a mineral likely present on Mars.

Researchers said the instrument they created at the U.S. Department of Energy's Idaho National Laboratory could help scientists select martian surface samples with the most promise for yielding signs of life.

The new laser blasts off tiny bits of mineral and looks for chemical signatures of molecules commonly found in cells. "While other methods require extensive sample handling, this analysis relies on a 'point-and-shoot' laser technique that preserves more of the rock and reduces contamination risk," officials said.

The scientists said they could detect biomolecules at concentrations as low as 3 parts per trillion.

The research is reported in the Geomicrobiology Journal.

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Shooting Life On Mars
Moffett Field CA (SPX) Oct 20, 2008
Scientists have detected minuscule traces of cells in a mineral on Earth that has also been detected on Mars. The results, obtained using a technique developed at the U.S. Department of Energy's Idaho National Laboratory, could help mission scientists choose martian surface samples with the most promise for yielding signs of life.











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