Circular Spectropolarimetric Sensing of Vegetation in the Field: Possibilities for the Remote Detection of Extraterrestrial Life

C. H.Lucas Patty*, Inge Loes Ten Kate, Wybren Jan Buma, Rob J.M. Van Spanning, Gábor Steinbach, Freek Ariese, Frans Snik

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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Abstract

Homochirality is a generic and unique property of all biochemical life, and the fractional circular polarization of light it induces therefore constitutes a potentially unambiguous biosignature. However, while high-quality circular polarimetric spectra can be easily and quickly obtained in the laboratory, accurate measurements in the field are much more challenging due to large changes in illumination and target movement. In this study, we measured various targets in the field, up to distances of a few kilometers, using the dedicated circular spectropolarimeter TreePol. We show how photosynthetic life can readily be distinguished from abiotic matter. We underline the potential of circular polarization signals as a remotely accessible means to characterize and monitor terrestrial vegetation, for example, for agriculture and forestry. In addition, we discuss the potential of circular polarization for the remote detection of extraterrestrial life.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1221-1229
Number of pages9
JournalAstrobiology
Volume19
Issue number10
Early online date27 Aug 2019
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2019

Funding

We dedicate this work to the memory of our dear friend, colleague, and the initiator of this project, Dr. Wilfred Röling, who unexpectedly passed away on Friday September 25, 2015. This work was supported by the Planetary and Exoplanetary Science Programme (PEPSci), grant 648.001.004, of the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO) and partly by the Economic Development and Innovation Operative Programme (GINOP), grants GINOP-2.1.7-15-2016-00713 and GINOP-2.3.2-15-2016-00001 from the Hungarian Ministry for National Economy. The research of FS leading to these results has received funding from the European Research Council under ERC Starting Grant agreement 678194 (FALCONER).

FundersFunder number
Economic Development and Innovation Operative ProgrammeGINOP-2.1.7-15-2016-00713, GINOP-2.3.2-15-2016-00001
Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research
Planetary and Exoplanetary Science Programme648.001.004
Horizon 2020 Framework Programme678194
European Research Council
Nederlandse Organisatie voor Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek

    Keywords

    • Biosignatures
    • Circular spectropolarimetry
    • Homochirality
    • Life detection
    • Photosynthesis
    • Remote sensing

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