Tricorders & Sensors

A Snapshot Full-Stokes Spectropolarimeter For Detecting Life On Earth

By Keith Cowing
Press Release
September 5, 2019
Filed under
A Snapshot Full-Stokes Spectropolarimeter For Detecting Life On Earth
Sketch of the optical design for LSDpol. Only the +1 diffraction order of the polarization grating is traced.

We present the design of a point-and-shoot non-imaging full-Stokes spectropolarimeter dedicated to detecting life on Earth from an orbiting platform like the ISS.

We specifically aim to map circular polarization in the spectral features of chlorophyll and other biopigments for our planet as a whole. These non-zero circular polarization signatures are caused by homochirality of the molecular and supramolecular configurations of organic matter, and are considered the most unambiguous biomarker. To achieve a fully solid-state snapshot design, we implement a novel spatial modulation that completely separates the circular and linear polarization channels.

The polarization modulator consists of a patterned liquid-crystal quarter-wave plate inside the spectrograph slit, which also constitutes the first optical element of the instrument. This configuration eliminates cross-talk between linear and circular polarization, which is crucial because linear polarization signals are generally much stronger than the circular polarization signals. This leads to a quite unorthodox optical concept for the spectrograph, in which the object and the pupil are switched. We discuss the general design requirements and trade-offs of LSDpol (Life Signature Detection polarimeter), a prototype instrument that is currently under development.

Frans Snik, Christoph U. Keller, David S. Doelman, Jonas Kühn, C. H. Lucas Patty, H. Jens Hoeijmakers, Vidhya Pallichadath, Daphne M. Stam, Antoine Pommerol, Olivier Poch, Brice-Olivier Demory
(Submitted on 5 Sep 2019)

Subjects: Instrumentation and Methods for Astrophysics (astro-ph.IM); Earth and Planetary Astrophysics (astro-ph.EP)
Journal reference: Proc. SPIE 11132-10 (2019)
Cite as: arXiv:1909.02283 [astro-ph.IM] (or arXiv:1909.02283v1 [astro-ph.IM] for this version)
Submission history
From: Frans Snik
[v1] Thu, 5 Sep 2019 09:34:53 UTC (3,340 KB)

Explorers Club Fellow, ex-NASA Space Station Payload manager/space biologist, Away Teams, Journalist, Lapsed climber, Synaesthete, Na’Vi-Jedi-Freman-Buddhist-mix, ASL, Devon Island and Everest Base Camp veteran, (he/him) 🖖🏻