Dr. Todd Sauke

December 21, 2006

SETI Institute Principal Investigator

In spite of the ordered simplicity of the Periodic Table, even atoms of the same element can come in slight variations. Carbon atoms, for example, vary in the number of neutrons they contain. The relative abundance of these variants--or isotopes--can provide critical information, such as whether the carbon in a sample was once part of an organic compound. Physicist Todd Sauke uses his expertise in laser technology to develop new methods to measure the prevalence of different isotopes in the atmospheres and on the surfaces of other planets. Laser technology of the sort Sauke develops can be miniaturized, requires little electrical power, and provides high resolution readings—all important qualities for missions to other worlds. “Isotopic analysis has proven very revealing in elucidating the nature and history of the biogenic elements on Earth,” Sauke explains, “and there are an abundance of important applications for isotopic measurements of biogenic elements on Mars.”


- SETI Institute Explorer, Special Edition 2005