This work was supported by Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation [grant number 4037/4038].
Advances in Physics: X
Digital holographic microscopy
There is no reductionist definition of life, so the way organisms look, behave, and move is the most definitive way to identify extraterrestrial life. Life elsewhere in the Solar System is likely to be microbial, but no microscope capable of imaging prokaryotic life has ever flown on a lander mission to a habitable planet. Nonetheless, high-resolution microscopes have been developed that are appropriate for planetary exploration. Traditional light microscopy, interferometric microscopy, light-field microscopy, scanning probe microscopy, and electron microscopy are all possible techniques for the detection of extant micro-organisms on Mars and the moons of Jupiter and Saturn. This article begins with a general discussion of the challenges involved in searching for prokaryotic life, then reviews instruments that have flown, that have been selected for flight but not flown or not flown yet, and developing techniques of great promise for life detection that have not yet been selected for flight.
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Nadeau, J. L., Bedrossian, M., & Lindensmith, C. A. (2018). Imaging technologies and strategies for detection of extant extraterrestrial microorganisms. Advances in Physics: X, 3(1), 1424032.