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Published Online: 31 March 2023

Detecting Microbiology in the Upper Atmosphere: Relative-Velocity Filtered Sampling

Publication: Astrobiology
Volume 23, Issue Number 4


The purpose of this article is to reopen from a practical perspective the question of the extent in altitude of Earth's biosphere. We make a number of different suggestions for how searches for biological material could be conducted in the mesosphere and lower thermosphere, colloquially referred to as the “ignore-osphere” because it has been generally ignored in the meteorological community compared to other regions. Relatively recent technological advances such as CubeSats in very low Earth orbit or more standard approaches such as the rocket-borne MAGIC meteoric smoke particle sampler are shown as potentially viable for sampling biological material in the ignore-osphere. The issue of contamination is discussed, and a potential solution to the problem is proposed by means of a new detector design that filters for particles based on their size and relative velocity to the detector.

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Associate Editor: Don Cowan

Information & Authors


Published In

cover image Astrobiology
Volume 23Issue Number 4April 2023
Pages: 469 - 475
PubMed: 36800170


Published in print: April 2023
Published online: 31 March 2023
Published ahead of print: 17 February 2023
Accepted: 11 December 2022
Received: 11 April 2022


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Arjun Berera
The Higgs Centre for Theoretical Physics, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, UK.
Daniel J. Brener [email protected]
The Higgs Centre for Theoretical Physics, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, UK.
Charles S. Cockell
UK Centre of Astrobiology, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, UK.


Address correspondence to: Daniel J. Brener, The Higgs Centre for Theoretical Physics, University of Edinburgh, James Clerk Maxwell Building, Peter Guthrie Tait Road, Edinburgh, EH9 3FD, UK [email protected]

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