The “Standoff Biofinder” is a powerful “search for life” instrument that is able to detect biomolecules from a collection of rocks and minerals in a large area with detection time less than a second using a non-contact, non-destructive approach. Biological materials show strong, short-lived fluorescence signals when excited with ultraviolet-visible (UVVis) wavelengths. The Standoff Biofinder takes advantage of the short lifetimes of bio-fluorescent materials to obtain real-time images showing the locations of biological materials among luminescent minerals in a geological context. The Standoff Biofinder uses an expanded and diffused nanosecond pulsed laser to illuminate a large geological region and a gated detector to record time-resolved fluorescence images. The instrument works in daylight as well as nighttime conditions and bio-detection capability is not affected by the background light. The instrument is able to detect both live and dead biological materials, and is a useful tool for detecting the presence of both extant and extinct life on a planetary surface. The Standoff Biofinder instrument will be suitable for locating fluorescent polyaromatic hydrocarbons, amino acids, proteins, bacteria, biominerals, photosynthetic pigments, and diagenetic products of microbial life on dry landscapes and Ocean Worlds of the outer Solar System (e.g., Enceladus, Europa, and Titan). An important feature of the Standoff Biofinder instrument is its capability to detect biomolecules which are inside ice, without sample collection.