Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

A miniaturized laser desorption Orbitrap mass spectrometer for biosignature detection

A device combining a pulsed laser system with an Orbitrap mass analyser is well-suited for in situ exploration of prime astrobiological targets, such as Enceladus. Here a prototype of this instrument that is optimized for spaceflight applications demonstrates that this device could be used to characterize chemical biosignatures in future missions.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution

Access options

Buy article

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.


All prices are NET prices.

Fig. 1: Detecting and characterizing biosignatures and determining the elemental composition of a sample.


  1. Hendrix, A. R. et al. The NASA roadmap to ocean worlds. Astrobiology 19, 1–27 (2018). A review article that identifies science objectives and recommends spaceflight technologies for visiting ocean worlds.

    Article  ADS  Google Scholar 

  2. Chan, M. A. et al. Deciphering biosignatures in planetary contexts. Astrobiology 19, 1075–1102 (2019). This article highlights the importance of having multiple measurements across different data types, spatial scales and time frames to identify biological phenomena.

    Article  ADS  Google Scholar 

  3. Arévalo, R., Ni, Z. & Danell, R. M. Mass spectrometry and planetary exploration: a brief review and future projection. J. Mass Spectrom. 55, e4454 (2020). This review article summarizes the historical evolution, scientific discoveries and future projection of the use of mass spectrometry in planetary exploration.

    Article  ADS  Google Scholar 

  4. Theiling, B. P. et al. Science autonomy for ocean worlds astrobiology: a perspective. Astrobiology 22, 901–913 (2022). This article presents the need for machine learning algorithms to assist onboard data analysis and enhance the science return of future astrobiology missions.

    Article  ADS  Google Scholar 

Download references

Additional information

Publisher’s note Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

This is a summary of: Arevalo, R. Jr et al. Laser desorption mass spectrometry with an Orbitrap analyser for in situ astrobiology. Nat. Astron. (2023).

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

A miniaturized laser desorption Orbitrap mass spectrometer for biosignature detection. Nat Astron (2023).

Download citation

  • Published:

  • DOI:


Quick links

Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing