Science

NASA develops advanced technology to search for livable ‘water worlds’

The fact that water exists in our cosmic neighborhood in many forms is one of the most fascinating things about space. Not only are scientists intrigued by the presence of water, but they are also intrigued by the possibility that liquid water may contain extraterrestrial life.

NASA scientists have developed an advanced quantum technology tool to search for ‘water worlds’ within our solar system, which particularly aims to identify celestial bodies that could harbor liquid water, a key indicator of potential extra-terrestrial life.

The fact that water exists in our cosmic neighborhood in many forms is one of the most fascinating things about space. Not only are scientists intrigued by the presence of water, but they are also intrigued by the possibility that liquid water may contain extraterrestrial life.

water worlds
Image Source: Nasa

One of the most exciting parts of space research is the finding of water in diverse forms throughout our cosmic neighborhood. Dr. Hannes Kraus, a researcher at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, explained, “Novel quantum sensors not only enable new scientific discoveries but also allow us to reduce the size and cost of flagship-class instruments, enabling them to be used on smaller CubeSat-class platforms.”

The hunt for alien life depends on the existence of liquid water in space. For a very long time, astrobiologists have guided their research with the maxim “Follow the Water.” The frozen moons of our solar system’s gas and ice giants, such as Jupiter’s Europa and Saturn’s Enceladus, have drawn the most interest in this hunt. These moons are excellent candidates for upcoming expeditions since it is thought that they have enormous subterranean seas behind their thick ice crusts.

However, it is a tough challenge for scientists to penetrate these ice crusts with conventional remote-sensing instruments like cameras and radars. Therefore, they need to depend on other techniques till they start sending landers or rovers that can dig through or melt ice to detect the hidden water bodies.

Magnetometry has become a viable technique for locating seas beneath the surface. Since magnetic fields may pass through solid objects, scientists can use them to learn important things about the innards of planet-sized bodies.

A breakthrough in this area is represented by solid-state quantum magnetometers. Compared to conventional magnetometers, these devices have a smaller size and weight, a lower power need, and higher sensitivity. A major quantum benefit of solid-state quantum magnetometers is their ability to self-calibrate through spin-nuclear quantum interaction, a feature that enables them to stay accurate over time even in the face of drifts.

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