X-Ray Technology Could Prove There’s Life on Mars

Source: The Verge

A scrutiny of the images taken by NASA has revealed the close similarity between sedimentary rocks and on the floors of Mars and structures that have appeared on Earth. It suggests that life, but not prove the existence of early life on Mars. To confirm if this can be true, Abigail Allwood an Australian astrobiologist explores the remote wilderness on Earth in search of little prints of life.

She is the innovator of a tool known as PIXL which she apparently developed as a postdoc. Using an x-ray beam, it fires a hair’s width at the rock. The energy pushes up the atoms on the surface which directly shoots back their plain x-rays. A combination of these beams creates finely detailed maps of the entire rock, possibly revealing the presence of microorganisms. She positively used the method to study rocks in Australia.

Abigail Allwood’s Contribution to NASA

Source: YouTube

Can this innovative method be applied in the study of Mars? Abigail is a Principal analyst on NASA’S 2020 mission. She is the first woman in history to survey a scientific tool on the Red Planet. The PIXL will be among a list of other seven instruments aboard that will aid the scientists in a close study of the existence of life on Mars. Abigail’s work has been recognizable all over the world.

In 2006, she identified  the oldest evidence of life on Earth in Australia. This significant discovery lands her on the cover of the most prestigious journal, i.e., Nature. She was recruited to NASA and given a chance to work with scientists at the Mars Program.

Allwood received her promotion to her current position in 2014. According to NASA’S calendar, her invention will be used in scanning Martian rocks for microbial signatures.

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Since landing on Mars in 2014, the mission rover has discovered at least one specific area of the planet that has stayed wet for an extended period and supported and sustains the continuity of life. It is at this point that the rover starts the search of experience on the red planet.
“If life is evident and flourished on Earth, there is a high chance of the same in Mars even if it was habitable briefly,” said Abigail back in 2006.

How the PIXL Instrument is being used to find Life on Mars

In a media briefing issued by the Australian Centre for Astrobiology in 2006, Abigail linked the research she performed in Australia’s Pilbara and the possibility of life on Mars. The PIXL instrument invented by the Australian lady is a plus “kit” to NASA. Apparently, it took her over four to five years to finalize on the final design of the instrument.

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It does not require the rock to be ground in the size of dust to analyze its composition.Upon placing the stone in the right position, the atoms including iron and sodium reflect a feature set of X-rays back. The PIXL then maps the distribution of these elements on high-resolution images of the rock.

life on mars
Source: Wired

The tool works like the Biological Microscope. It looks at rocks on the level of grain, i.e. “a grain of rock” to see if there are any signs of organic material. So far, the scientific tools on Mars blast quite large pieces of rock and the PIXL will work efficiently observe tiny fragments of the stones. It will perform a chemical analysis on a small sample of the cliff.

The Curiosity Rover has been used efficiently to collect soil samples in the planet since August 6, 2012. The rover has also discovered complex organic molecules in the sandstones of the Gale crater and the presence of methane.