Never miss a great news story!
Get instant notifications from Economic Times
AllowNot now


You can switch off notifications anytime using browser settings.
11,921.50-96.9
Stock Analysis, IPO, Mutual Funds, Bonds & More

This light-sensing camera with more than 1,000 sensors can detect signs of alien life

Considered as one of the highest-performance cameras ever, it can also detect elusive dark matter.

PTI|
Nov 22, 2019, 06.07 PM IST
0Comments
Agencies
​NIST electronics engineer Varun Verma​  explains how a new NIST camera, made of nanometer-scale wires, could efficiently capture light from atmospheres of extrasolar planets that possibly harbor life.​
NIST electronics engineer Varun Verma explains how a new NIST camera, made of nanometer-scale wires, could efficiently capture light from atmospheres of extrasolar planets that possibly harbor life. (Image: NIST)
WASHINGTON: Researchers have developed one of the highest-performance cameras ever, which they say may be useful in the search for chemical signs of life on other planets, and in detecting the elusive dark matter.

The camera developed by the researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) in the US is composed of more than 1,000 sensors, or pixels, that count single photons, or particles of light.

Described in the journal Optics Express, the camera consists of sensors made from superconducting nanowires, which can detect single photons.

They are among the best photon counters in terms of speed, efficiency, and range of colour sensitivity, the researchers said.

The team used these detectors to demonstrate Einstein's "spooky action at a distance," for example.

The theory referred to 'quantum entanglement' states that the measurement of one particle will instantly influence another particle, regardless of how far apart they are.

Micrograph of NIST’s high-resolution camera made of 1,024 sensors that count single photons, or particles of light. The camera was designed for future space-based telescopes searching for chemical signs of life on other planets. The 32-by-32 sensor array is surrounded by pink and gold wires connecting to electronics that compile the data. (Image: V. Verma/NIST​)

Micrograph of NIST’s high-resolution camera made of 1,024 sensors that count single photons, or particles of light. The camera was designed for future space-based telescopes searching for chemical signs of life on other planets. The 32-by-32 sensor array is surrounded by pink and gold wires connecting to electronics that compile the data. (Image: V. Verma/NIST)


The nanowire detectors don't count false signals caused by noise rather than photons, according to the researchers.

This feature is especially useful for dark-matter searches and space-based astronomy, the researchers said.

The camera may be useful in future space-based telescopes searching for chemical signs of life on other planets, and in new instruments designed to search for the elusive "dark matter" believed to constitute most of the "stuff" in the universe, they said.

However, cameras with more pixels and larger physical dimensions than previously available are required for these applications.

They also need to detect light with longer wavelengths than currently practical.

The camera is small in physical size, a square measuring 1.6 millimetres on a side, but packed with 1,024 sensors (32 columns by 32 rows) to make high-resolution images.


The main challenge was to find a way to collate and obtain results from so many detectors without overheating, researchers said.

"My primary motivation for making the camera is NASA's Origins Space Telescope project, which is looking into using these arrays for analysing the chemical composition of planets orbiting stars outside of our solar system," said Varun Verma, an electronics engineer at NIST.

Each chemical element in the planet's atmosphere would absorb a unique set of colours, he said.

"The idea is to look at the absorption spectra of light passing through the edge of an exoplanet's atmosphere as it transits in front of its parent star," Verma explained.

"The absorption signatures tell you about the elements in the atmosphere, particularly those that might give rise to life, such as water, oxygen and carbon dioxide," he said.

Apophis Can Wipe Out A Country: A Look At Every Massive Asteroid That Has Hit Earth

of 5
Next
Prev
Play Slideshow

'God of Chaos' Is Coming!

13 Sep, 2019
A monster asteroid - named Apophis after the Egyptian 'God of Chaos' - is likely to swoosh past Earth, but there is a slight chance that it may hit the planet.The bigger-than-Eiffel Tower asteroid, weighing around 27 billion-kg, could leave a crater impact of 1.6 km wide in diameter and 518 metre deep. It has the capacity of an 880 million tonne TNT explosion that can wipe out large cities or even an entire country.First spotted in August 2006, the ‘hazardous’ asteroid was initially named 2006 QQ23.Meanwhile, the European Space Agency recently released a 'risk list' of 878 asteroids that are likely to cause a massive impact on Earth in the next 100 years.Here's a look at all the asteroids Earth has braved.
Next

Want stories like this in your inbox? Sign up for the daily ET Panache newsletter.

You can also follow us on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

Also Read

AI to help in search for alien life

'Super Earth' that may host alien life identified

Scientists send message to contact alien life

NASA develops new tool to fast-track search for alien life

Comments
Add Your Comments
Commenting feature is disabled in your country/region.
Download The Economic Times Business News App for the Latest News in Business, Sensex, Stock Market Updates & More.

Other useful Links


Follow us on


Download et app


Copyright © 2019 Bennett, Coleman & Co. Ltd. All rights reserved. For reprint rights: Times Syndication Service