Image of the Day: Laser-powered Mars sniffer

Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

This is a lab demo of the Tunable Laser Spectrometer, a nifty piece of kit on the Mars Science Laboratory that can figure out what the Martian atmosphere is made of. The real version (on Mars) uses infrared lasers that you can't see, but these visible spectrum demo lasers are 100 percent more lasery as they bounce back and forth between the two mirrors in the spectrometer. Sensors watch to see what light gets absorbed, and from that, the instrument can figure out the makeup of what's inside.

The hope was that the spectrometer on Mars would find a bunch of methane, which might suggest either life or geological activity, either of which would be exciting. But so far, Mars is looking kinda sorta really, really dead.

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Via NASA

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