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One way to detect martian life ...

This is Science Today. Amino acids are organic molecules that form the building blocks of life and they have very distinctive characteristics known as ‘handedness'.

Bada:              It's a fancy concept, but basically if you hold your hands in front of you, you'll notice that your one hand is a mirror image of the other and amino acids have exactly that same geometry. So, amino acids can exist in either a left- or right-handed form. Life on Earth, for reasons that we don't totally understand, uses only left-handed amino acids.

Narrator:        Jeffrey Bada, a professor of marine chemistry at the University of California, San Diego's Scripps Institution of Oceanography is helping develop a sophisticated instrument that can detect if amino acids found on Mars are left or right-handed.

Bada:              People have asked what would be the Eureka moment when you just say, "Yay, we've detected unique Martian life". It would be detecting amino acids that were all right-handed. We've never seen anything like that.

Narrator:        For Science Today, I'm Larissa Branin.