Can 'Dimers' Be Used For Star Trek's Long Range Sensors?
As much as I loved Star Trek in the 1960's, there were some elements of the series' pseudoscience that made me wince. One of them was the idea of a long range sensor that could detect life readings on distant planets. How could you possibly detect life at a distance of light years?
It turns out that it might be possible after all.
Astronomers have found a way to determine the atmospheric pressure of far away worlds using "dimers", molecules that couple to form larger, more complex molecules. In particular, two oxygen molecules.
We present a new method to probe atmospheric pressure on Earth-like planets using (O2-O2) dimers in the near-infrared. We also show that dimer features could be the most readily detectable biosignatures for Earth-like atmospheres and may even be detectable in transit transmission with the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST). The absorption by dimers changes more rapidly with pressure and density than that of monomers and can therefore provide additional information about atmospheric pressures. By comparing the absorption strengths of rotational and vibrational features to the absorption strengths of dimer features, we show that in some cases it may be possible to estimate the pressure at the reflecting surface of a planet.
This method is demonstrated by using the O2 A band and the 1.06 μm dimer feature, either in transmission or reflected spectra. It works best for planets around M dwarfs with atmospheric pressures between 0.1 and 10 bar and for O2 volume mixing ratios above 50% of Earth's present-day level.
Furthermore, unlike observations of Rayleigh scattering, this method can be used at wavelengths longer than 0.6 μm and is therefore potentially applicable, although challenging, to near-term planet characterization missions such as JWST. We also performed detectability studies for JWST transit transmission spectroscopy and found that the 1.06 and 1.27 μm dimer features could be detectable (SNR>3) for an Earth analogue orbiting an M5V star at a distance of 5 pc.
The detection of these features could provide a constraint on the atmospheric pressure of an exoplanet and serve as biosignatures for oxygenic photosynthesis.
We calculated the required signal-to-noise ratios to detect and characterize O2 monomer and dimer features in direct imaging–reflected spectra and found that signal-to-noise ratios greater than 10 at a spectral resolving power of R=100 would be required.
So, given that this method works (there are others), maybe Spock was right all along.
(Spock long range sensor scan)
From Using Dimers to Measure Biosignatures and Atmospheric Pressure for Terrestrial Exoplanets (pdf) via ScienceMag.
Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 3/13/2014)
Follow this kind of news @Technovelgy.
| Email | RSS | Blog It | Stumble | del.icio.us | Digg | Reddit |
you like to contribute a story tip?
Get the URL of the story, and the related sf author, and add
Comment/Join discussion ( 1 )
Related News Stories -
Pent-Up NASA Scientists Simulate Life On Mars
'That gives it complete isolation.' - David H. Keller, 1932.
Dust Movement On The Moon, Saturn's Rings Solved
'...The dust normally on the surface picks up and keeps a charge.' - Hal Clement, 1956.
Axiom - The World's First Private Space Station?
'So Webb Foster had built his space laboratory... It was a great crystal sphere, a thousand feet in diameter.' - Nat Schachner, 1937.
Moon's Huge Lava Tubes Perfect For Heinlein's Bat Wings
'It's just a big volcanic bubble, two miles across...' - Robert Heinlein, 1957.
Technovelgy (that's tech-novel-gee!)
is devoted to the creative science inventions and ideas of sf authors. Look for
the Invention Category that interests
you, the Glossary, the Invention
Timeline, or see what's New.
Matrix Sentinel Ancestor, The Pipe Inspector Robot From Krakow
Watch out, Keanu!
Auto-Focus Smart Glasses Have Liquid Lenses
'Hufhuf oil held in static tension by an enclosing force field within a viewing tube...'
Robotic Physician Assistant Has Steady 'Hands'
'You turned the screws below and the prongs moved... with caliper slowness, minuteness and precision.'
Roboy 3DPrinted Humanoid Robot
'A robot child that would be reared within the bosom of a human family...'
Robird Flapping Wing Drones Keep Airports Safe
'Mitch heard a rasping, flacketing buzz, like a big insect...'
3D Printed Fashion - Plastirobes And Transdresses
'... dial a new fashion every day!'
Robotic Lawn Mower Powered By Sun, Arduino
'The mower reached the edge of the lawn, clucked to itself like a contented hen...'
Google Perfects 'Blade Runner-style' Photo Details
'Pull back... stop... enhance 57-19...'
Pokerbot Libratus Learns To Lie (Bluff)
'Lying's a vital part of your psychological defense system - you're naked without it!'
Otto Autonomous Robot Trucks Run Into... Legal Snag
'They were automatic trucks such as are used for making deliveries...'
Tiny Drones With Sticky Feet Pollinate Flowers Now
'The Scarab rubbed its hind legs together...'
ThreeForm 3D Scans And Digitally Simulates Customer Fashion
'...A miracle of misapplied engineering caused his own face to appear on the illustrated figures dressed in trooper red.'
CloudFisher - Moroccan Fog Farmers Harvest Moisture From The Air
'That moisture trickles down...'
Piaggio Gita Personal Robot Porter
'Carry his bag... and follow him faithfully...'
Ardu McDuino, Bagpipe Robot
'Rollo sat at the keyboard, prim, inhuman, rigid, twin lenses focused...'
Not Quite Self-Replicating Robots, Franka Emika
'... it shares with mankind the ability to propagate.'
More SF in the News Stories
More Beyond Technovelgy science news stories