For the time being, extraterrestrial life does not present itself on a silver platter in the form of UFOs full of space creatures. It is a very good search for microscopic particles that can reveal the extraterrestrial secrets. And so far without success. Fortunately, the Biofinder comes to the rescue.

A group of scientists from the University of Hawaii developed this new scanning device. Main benefit: It allows to search for signs of extraterrestrial life with much more accuracy. The device scans all kinds of rock for fossils that are millions of years old.

Much biological material, such as amino acids, fossils, sedimentary rocks, plants, microbes, proteins and fats, emit fluorescent signals. These organic signals can be picked up with special cameras. The Compact Color Biofinder, as the device is called in full, is so sensitive that it can even find a biological residue from a 34 to 56 million year old fish fossil, write the researchers in Nature Scientific Reports.

Special footage

“The Biofinder is a unique device,” said Anupam Misra, lead developer and researcher in Hawaii. “There are no other instruments that can detect such small amounts of biological material in a rock in daylight. In addition, the Biofinder can record videos and effortlessly scan a large area several meters away.”

The Biofinder finds biological residue in a fish fossil. Photo a: fish fossil with white light. Photo b: fluorescent image taken by the Biofinder. Photo c: close-up of a cross-section of the fossil. Photo d: Fluorescent image of the Biofinder. Source: Misra, et al., 2022

The groundbreaking color filming device is an improved version of the 2012 Biofinder. Misra developed the compact new version in collaboration with NASA.

50 million year old signals

It is very difficult to find any sign of life in a rocky environment. The team went to Colorado and tested the device on fish fossils in the Green River formation. Managed to pick up signs of life there, hidden in stone. “It is unclear how quickly bio-residue changes into minerals during the fossilization process,” explains Misra. “But our findings prove once again that biological residue can be preserved for millions of years and that it is possible to detect these residues with our scanner.”


Searching for signs of extraterrestrial life is one of the primary goals of NASA and other international space organizations. They have been greatly helped by the Biofinder. “The Biofinder can be mounted on a Mars rover or sent to another planet. He can scan large tracts of land for biological material in a short time. If there ever was life on the planet, he picks it up. Even though the organism was small, hard to see with the naked eye, and it died millions of years ago,” Misra said.

“We expect fluorescence scanning to become an important part of future NASA interplanetary missions in search of extraterrestrial life. If we succeed in detecting such biomarkers, the world will be shaken to its foundations. It would then be the first evidence of extraterrestrial life.”

Chance of extraterrestrial life

Since the 1960s, humans have been looking for life beyond Earth. Within our solar system, the search has so far yielded nothing. For that reason, people have been searching deeper into space for some time now: with radio telescopes, astronomers are trying to pick up signals from extraterrestrial life in other galaxies. But if there is life in our Milky Way, it will probably consist of, for example, micro-organisms, plants or other low-developed life. The Biofinder can play an important role in the search for this.

Statistically, there should be extraterrestrial life, some scientists say: there are probably trillions of planets. Then there is certainly one with a form of water, which is generally regarded as a condition for life. But then the Fermi paradox is often brought in: if so, why haven’t we found them or they yet? There is no answer. All we can do is keep looking.