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View Full Version : Life here nothing special.....prebiotic molecules in interstellar space



Peter Lemkin
03-01-2013, 08:07 PM
Dave Finley, Public Information Officer
Socorro, NM
(575) 835-7302
dfinley@nrao.edu

Discoveries Suggest Icy Cosmic Start for Amino Acids and DNA Ingredients

Using new technology at the telescope and in laboratories, researchers have discovered an important pair of prebiotic molecules in interstellar space. The discoveries indicate that some basic chemicals that are key steps on the way to life may have formed on dusty ice grains floating between the stars.

In the above video, students and their astronomer-advisor
share the excitement of discovery.

Structure of cyanomethanimine.
Link to graphics of cynanomethanimine and adenine

The scientists used the National Science Foundation's Green Bank Telescope (GBT) in West Virginia to study a giant cloud of gas some 25,000 light-years from Earth, near the center of our Milky Way Galaxy. The chemicals they found in that cloud include a molecule thought to be a precursor to a key component of DNA and another that may have a role in the formation of the amino acid alanine.

One of the newly-discovered molecules, called cyanomethanimine, is one step in the process that chemists believe produces adenine, one of the four nucleobases that form the "rungs" in the ladder-like structure of DNA. The other molecule, called ethanamine, is thought to play a role in forming alanine, one of the twenty amino acids in the genetic code.

"Finding these molecules in an interstellar gas cloud means that important building blocks for DNA and amino acids can 'seed' newly-formed planets with the chemical precursors for life," said Anthony Remijan, of the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO).

In each case, the newly-discovered interstellar molecules are intermediate stages in multi-step chemical processes leading to the final biological molecule. Details of the processes remain unclear, but the discoveries give new insight on where these processes occur.

Previously, scientists thought such processes took place in the very tenuous gas between the stars. The new discoveries, however, suggest that the chemical formation sequences for these molecules occurred not in gas, but on the surfaces of ice grains in interstellar space.

"We need to do further experiments to better understand how these reactions work, but it could be that some of the first key steps toward biological chemicals occurred on tiny ice grains," Remijan said.

The discoveries were made possible by new technology that speeds the process of identifying the "fingerprints" of cosmic chemicals. Each molecule has a specific set of rotational states that it can assume. When it changes from one state to another, a specific amount of energy is either emitted or absorbed, often as radio waves at specific frequencies that can be observed with the GBT.

New laboratory techniques have allowed astrochemists to measure the characteristic patterns of such radio frequencies for specific molecules. Armed with that information, they then can match that pattern with the data received by the telescope. Laboratories at the University of Virginia and the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics measured radio emission from cyanomethanimine and ethanamine, and the frequency patterns from those molecules then were matched to publicly-available data produced by a survey done with the GBT from 2008 to 2011.

A team of undergraduate students participating in a special summer research program for minority students at the University of Virginia (U.Va.) conducted some of the experiments leading to the discovery of cyanomethanimine. The students worked under U.Va. professors Brooks Pate and Ed Murphy, and Remijan. The program, funded by the National Science Foundation, brought students from four universities for summer research experiences. They worked in Pate's astrochemistry laboratory, as well as with the GBT data.

"This is a pretty special discovery and proves that early-career students can do remarkable research," Pate said.

The researchers are reporting their findings in the Astrophysical Journal Letters.

Charles Drago
03-01-2013, 10:10 PM
Nothing unique.

Quite special.

Adele Edisen
03-02-2013, 10:42 AM
Previously, scientists thought such processes took place in the very tenuous gas between the stars. The new discoveries, however, suggest that the chemical formation sequences for these molecules occurred not in gas, but on the surfaces of ice grains in interstellar space.

So water, even in solid form, is necessary for the chemical formation!

Adele

Peter Lemkin
03-02-2013, 11:10 AM
Previously, scientists thought such processes took place in the very tenuous gas between the stars. The new discoveries, however, suggest that the chemical formation sequences for these molecules occurred not in gas, but on the surfaces of ice grains in interstellar space.

So water, even in solid form, is necessary for the chemical formation!

Adele

Yes, apparently, H2O even at VERY low temperatures can be a catalyst for these reactions (http://www.dailygalaxy.com/my_weblog/2009/04/is-ice-a-cataly.html). Perhaps some of the mineral materials do too, with some help from stellar radiation and interstellar particles and radiation. This theory, called panspermia, has been around a long time and one I've always subscribed to. We are not alone!

Charles, life everywhere is 'unique', but apparently all come from universal [in both senses of that term] sources at the most basic level - likely mostly on comets, meteors and other space wanderers. On most places where there is extra-terrestrial life it has likely not developed the technological stage; many of those who did self-destructed, as we seem prepared to do; some others [I estimated 1,000,000 in the visible universe in my university course on 'Intelligent Life In The Universe'; now believed to be two to three orders of magnitude greater!] had found a way to be technically advanced and not destroy themselves or foul their planet - however the average distance between these are still amazingly large...but maybe we'll get a message, or they will interpret the Ernie Kovaks Show as pre-civilization when that 'message' reaches them.

Ehrenfreund, P., and Charnley, S. B., 2000. Organic molecules in
the interstellar medium, comets and meteorites: a voyage from
dark clouds to the early earth. Annual Review of Astronomy &
Astrophysics, 38, 427–483.

Charles Drago
03-02-2013, 02:46 PM
This fits neatly with the panspermia theory of Sir Fred Hoyle, Francis Crick, and Leslie Orgel.

Peter Lemkin
03-02-2013, 03:58 PM
This fits neatly with the panspermia theory of Sir Fred Hoyle, Francis Crick, and Leslie Orgel.
Hoyle's was rather unique. He suggested that it not only happened once to 'seed' life here on Earth early in its inception, but that regular 'inseminations' of new DNA in raw form or in bacterial spores or as viruses/prions in comets and and meteorites were the cause for some of the evolutionary changes in the early period of evolution [which was the greater length period of evolution - larger, more complex forms of life taking up the smaller end period].

Not long ago Hawkings was asked about this matter and while he believed there were many advanced civilizations 'out there' [by the way, simple calculations shows that if there are any, most are FAR, FAR, FAR more advanced than we are, technologically], but he felt for reasons I'm not aware of that the majority of them would be hostile and exploit Earth if they came here and contact should be avoided or at least not desirable. Others think that those advanced civilizations 'out there' that were malevolent mostly destroyed themselves or each other and really long-term intelligent life is primarily benign. Cue in Kubrick.

Adele Edisen
03-02-2013, 04:58 PM
The creation of molecules to be found in living organisms could have also originated on early earth, an idea first proposed in 1924 by a Russian chemist, Alexander Oparin. In the 1950s, Dr. Harold Urey and his student, Stanley Miller, created an experiment to mimic conditions on early earth by mixing certain gases and water in a flask and exposing the mixture to electrical currents (to simulate lightning strikes).

Analysis of he contents of the flask revealed that amino acids and othe chemicals were produced.

http://www.chem.duke.edu/~jds/cruise_chem/Exobiology/miller.html

Adele

Magda Hassan
03-02-2013, 11:35 PM
We are stardust.


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a24wVSVLtLQ

Charles Drago
03-03-2013, 04:47 AM
Not to mention body and soul.




http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6YyX5R6ohBE&feature=player_detailpage



http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=degZcUFL9SA&feature=player_detailpage

Peter Lemkin
03-03-2013, 06:25 PM
Note finally that from our estimate of habitable planets, and with a total number of 10 to the 11th galaxies, we obtain a staggering number of 4 × 10 to the 17th Earth-like planets in the universe!.......amazingly large number have water and the right temperature range! I wonder if out there there is some real intelligence! - without intelligence agencies.

Keith Millea
03-03-2013, 07:43 PM
I wonder if out there there is some real intelligence!

Oh yeah Peter,there is some real intelligence out there....

Notable individuals buried in space[edit (https://deeppoliticsforum.com/w/index.php?title=Space_burial&action=edit&section=4)]

Launched into Earth orbit on April 21, 1997


Timothy Leary (https://deeppoliticsforum.com/wiki/Timothy_Leary), (October 22, 1920–May 31, 1996), American (https://deeppoliticsforum.com/wiki/United_States) writer (https://deeppoliticsforum.com/wiki/Writer), psychologist (https://deeppoliticsforum.com/wiki/Psychologist), psychedelic drug (https://deeppoliticsforum.com/wiki/Psychedelic_drugs) advocate, and former Harvard (https://deeppoliticsforum.com/wiki/Harvard) professor.
[edit (https://deeppoliticsforum.com/w/index.php?title=Space_burial&action=edit&section=5)] Buried on the Moon on July 31, 1999


Dr. Eugene Shoemaker (https://deeppoliticsforum.com/wiki/Eugene_Merle_Shoemaker), (April 28, 1928–July 18, 1997), astronomer and co-discoverer of Comet Shoemaker–Levy 9 (https://deeppoliticsforum.com/wiki/Comet_Shoemaker–Levy_9).
[edit (https://deeppoliticsforum.com/w/index.php?title=Space_burial&action=edit&section=6)] Launched into Earth orbit on December 20, 1999


Charles Oren Bennett (January 21, 1928–1999), space illustrator.
[edit (https://deeppoliticsforum.com/w/index.php?title=Space_burial&action=edit&section=7)] Launched into outer space in a trajectory out of the solar system on January 19, 2006


Clyde Tombaugh (https://deeppoliticsforum.com/wiki/Clyde_Tombaugh) (February 4, 1906–January 17, 1997), American astronomer and discoverer of Pluto (https://deeppoliticsforum.com/wiki/Pluto) in 1930. The ashes are aboard New Horizons (https://deeppoliticsforum.com/wiki/New_Horizons), the first spacecraft to pass by and photograph Pluto. This is the first set of human remains which will escape the solar system to travel among the stars.
[edit (https://deeppoliticsforum.com/w/index.php?title=Space_burial&action=edit&section=8)] Launched into Earth orbit on May 22, 2012


Leroy Gordon "Gordo" Cooper, Jr. (https://deeppoliticsforum.com/wiki/Gordon_Cooper) (March 6, 1927–October 4, 2004), American astronaut. He was one of the original Mercury Seven (https://deeppoliticsforum.com/wiki/Mercury_Seven) pilots in the Project Mercury (https://deeppoliticsforum.com/wiki/Project_Mercury) program, the first manned space effort by the United States.[6] (https://deeppoliticsforum.com/forums/#cite_note-Legacy-6)
[edit (https://deeppoliticsforum.com/w/index.php?title=Space_burial&action=edit&section=9)] Future space burials


Majel Barrett (https://deeppoliticsforum.com/wiki/Majel_Barrett) (1932–2008), American actress who played Christine Chapel (https://deeppoliticsforum.com/wiki/Christine_Chapel) in the original Star Trek (https://deeppoliticsforum.com/wiki/Star_Trek:_The_Original_Series) series; wife of Gene Roddenberry (https://deeppoliticsforum.com/wiki/Gene_Roddenberry). Her remains will be launched into space in 2014, as was done in 1997 with the remains of her husband.[citation needed (https://deeppoliticsforum.com/wiki/Wikipedia:Citation_needed)]
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Space_burial

Charles Drago
03-04-2013, 12:51 AM
Let us not forget the unacknowledged casualties -- animal, human, and maybe others -- of the Space Race who rest among the stars.