Crucible of the Building Blocks of Life

Just add water, gasses, and simple organic molecules 

Space news (July 27, 2015) – the search for life beyond Earth – a simple recipe for extraterrestrial life –

The simple building blocks of life could have traveled to Earth on icy grains of dust carried on asteroids and meteorites during the early moments of the Solar System.
The simple building blocks of life could have traveled to Earth on icy grains of dust carried on asteroids and meteorites during the early moments of the Solar System.

NASA scientists studying the origins of organic compounds important to the development of life on Earth think they’re on the trail of a cosmic “Crucible of the Building Blocks of Life”. Recent experiments conducted by astrobiologists working at the Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland indicate asteroids and meteorites could have been the source of complex organic compounds essential to the evolution of life on Earth. Essential organic compounds they have been able to reproduce in laboratory experiments from simpler organic compounds, water, and gasses in simulations of the space environments of meteorites and asteroids. 

“We found that the types of organic compounds in our laboratory-produced ices match very well to what is found in meteorites,” said Karen Smith of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. “This result suggests that these important organic compounds in meteorites may have originated from simple molecular ices in space. This type of chemistry may also be relevant for comets, which contain large amounts of water and carbon dioxide ices. These experiments show that vitamin B3 and other complex organic compounds could be made in space and it is plausible that meteorite and comet impacts could have added an extraterrestrial component to the supply of vitamin B3 on ancient Earth.”

“This work is part of a broad research program in the field of Astrobiology at NASA Goddard. We are working to understand the origins of biologically important molecules and how they came to exist throughout the Solar System and on Earth. The experiments performed in our laboratory demonstrate an important possible connection between the complex organic molecules formed in cold interstellar space and those we find in meteorites.”

The Crucible of the Building Blocks of Life

Deep within immense clouds of gas and dust created by exploding stars (supernovae) and the winds of red giant stars coming to the end of their days are countless dust grains. Many of these dust grains will end up part of asteroids and meteorites like the millions of bodies in the Main Asteroid Belt, Kuiper Belt, and Oort Cloud. Asteroids and meteorites that bombarded the Earth from space during the formation of the planets and Solar System.

Cosmic dust grains carried on asteroids and meteorites that struck the Earth during the first moments of the birth of the Solar System could have carried complex organic compounds that contributed to the birth and evolution of life on Earth.
Cosmic dust grains carried on asteroids and meteorites that struck the Earth during the first moments of the birth of the Solar System could have carried complex organic compounds that contributed to the birth and evolution of life on Earth.

NASA space scientists were able to reproduce a “Crucible of the Building Blocks of Life” using an aluminum plate cooled to minus 423 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 253 Celsius) as the cold surface of an interstellar dust grain carried by an asteroid or meteorite heading to Earth 4.5 billion years ago. The experiments were conducted in a vacuum chamber used to replicate conditions in space to which they added gasses containing water, carbon dioxide, and the simple organic compound pyridine. Bombarding the cold surface with high energy protons from a particle accelerator to simulate cosmic radiation and other radiation found in space produced more complex organic compounds like vitamin B3.  

Data collected by the European Space Agency's Rosetta Mission during the months and years ahead could shine more light on this subject. Rosetta's lander, Philae, is currently sitting on the surface of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko awaiting its closest approach to the Sun in August 2015. Presently, the surface of the comet is warming and gases we can test to validate the results of these experiments are expected to be released as it nears Sol. 
Data collected by the European Space Agency’s Rosetta Mission during the months and years ahead could shine more light on this subject. Rosetta’s lander, Philae, is currently sitting on the surface of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko awaiting its closest approach to the Sun in August 2015. Presently, the surface of the comet is warming and gasses we can test to validate the results of these experiments are expected to be released as it nears Sol.

To learn more about the European Space Agency and its work with the Rosetta mission go here.

To learn more about NASA’s space mission and the search for life beyond Earth visit here.

Learn more about the Goddard Space Flight Center here.

Learn more about plans to visit Jupiter’s moon Europa to have a look for the ingredients that make life possible.

Read about the search for the missing link in black hole evolution.

Learn about the planets space scientists are finding orbiting four star systems.

NExSS Coalition Searches for Habitable Planets and Life Beyond Earth

Groundbreaking collaboration between sciences explores planetary zoo for candidates with the ingredients for life

The search for life beyond our solar system requires unprecedented cooperation across scientific disciplines. NASA's NExSS collaboration includes those who study Earth as a life-bearing planet (lower right), those researching the diversity of solar system planets (left), and those on the new frontier, discovering worlds orbiting other stars in the galaxy (upper right). Credits: NASA
The search for life beyond our solar system requires unprecedented cooperation across scientific disciplines. NASA’s NExSS collaboration includes those who study Earth as a life-bearing planet (lower right), those researching the diversity of solar system planets (left), and those on the new frontier, discovering worlds orbiting other stars in the galaxy (upper right).
Credits: NASA

Space news (June 06, 2015) – The human search for life beyond Earth reaches for new horizons this week with the announcement NASA’s bringing together space scientists spanning a variety of scientific fields to form Nexus for Exoplanet System Science (NExSS).

Nexus for Exoplanet System Science (NExSS) brings together top research teams in Earth and planetary science and Helio and Astrophysics in an effort to determine the habitability of exoplanets discovered during the human journey to the beginning of space and time.

“This interdisciplinary endeavor connects top research teams and provides a synthesized approach in the search for planets with the greatest potential for signs of life,” says Jim Green, NASA’s Director of Planetary Science. “The hunt for exoplanets is not only a priority for astronomers, it’s of keen interest to planetary and climate scientists as well.”

Since the beginning of NASA’s Kepler Space Mission six years ago planet hunters have discovered 1852 exoplanets. Currently, there are another 4661 candidates detected by the Kepler Space Telescope, being examined closely for evidence to prove the existence of life beyond Earth. NExSS space scientists will develop techniques to confirm the habitability of these exoplanets by searching for ‘signs of life’.

Earth and planetary scientists, Heliophysicists and Astrophysicists use a “System Science” approach to better understand the ‘signs of life’ they need to look for on exoplanets discovered. They want to understand how life-on-Earth interacts with the atmosphere, geology, oceans and interior of the planet, and how this is affected by our sun. In an effort to develop better techniques to detect life on distant planets.

Dr. Paul Hertz, Director of the Astrophysics Division at NASA notes, “NExSS scientists will not only apply a systems science approach to existing exoplanet data, their work will provide a foundation for interpreting observations of exoplanets from future exoplanet missions such as TESS, JWST, and WFIRST.” The Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) is working toward a 2017 launch, with the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) scheduled for launch in 2018. The Wide-field Infrared Survey Telescope (WFIRST) is currently being studied by NASA for a launch in the 2020’s.

The search for life goes on

NExSS is led by Natalie Batalha of NASA’s Ames Research Center, Dawn Gelino of NASA’s Exoplanet Science Institute, and Anthony del Genio of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies. They’ll lead team members from ten universities and two research institutes as they search for exoplanets with signs of life.

Humans have searched for signs of life in the night sky for thousands of years and some claim to have met and interacted with extraterrestrial beings during this time.

Now, humans desire to meet and communicate with beings from another world, and NExSS is the next step towards finding the answer to the eternal question.

Are we alone in the universe?

To learn more about NExSS and the search for life visit here.

You can learn more about NASA’s space mission to the stars here.

Learn more about planets in four star systems

Read about NASA reaching out to private and business concerns to help enable the human desire to travel to Mars and beyond.

Learn how to calculate the orbits of asteroids within the Main Asteroid Belt.

Companion Star Eclipses X-Ray Neutron Star

X-ray pulsar Swift J1749.4-2807 is the first pulsar astronomers have witnessed being eclipsed by its companion star

April signal from Sagittarius the Archer reveals pulsar (Photo courtesy of NASA)

Astronomy News

Friday, December 30, 2011 – “Astronomy delights the soul because of the mystery

Astronomers recently detected a signal emanating from the constellation Sagittarius the Archer which after study turned out to be a type of x-ray pulsar often called an accretion-powered pulsar. Accretion-powered pulsars have to this point in the human journey to the beginning of time and space always appeared as part of a binary star system with a normal type star. In this scenario the powerful gravity field of the neutron star is able to pull material from the surface of the normal star during a process referred too as accretion. Astronomers have designated this new x-ray pulsar Swift J1749.4-2807 and believe it’s the remnant of a supernova. Spinning wildly out of control, this accretion-powered pulsar is thought to be composed of dense material with properties we know nothing about.

Astronomers believe the signal emanating from the constellation Sagittarius the Archer was produced during the accretion process as the material torn from the surface of the normal star spirals around the neutron star.  NASA scientists believe the material heats up to the point where it radiates x-rays during the process of spiralling into the region of the neutron star’s magnetic poles. X-ray detectors on near Earth telescopes detect these x-rays when a spinning neutron star lines up directly with the line of sight to Earth.

Check out astronomy.com or NASA for the latest in breaking news on the human journey to the beginning of space and time.

Click this link to watch a You Tube video on Sagittarius the Archer

Sagittarius the Archer

Check out my astronomy website at http://astronomytonight.yolasite.com/.

Read about NASA’s Messenger spacecraft and its mission to Mercury

Have you heard about the recent meteorite that exploded near the Ural Mountains

Read about the supernova astronomers are studying looking for a black hole they think was created during the explosion

NASA’s Curiosity Almost Ready to Journey to Mars

NASA scientists and engineers preparing Curiosity for her journey to Mars

NASA images

One of the latest envoys of the human journey to the beginning of space and time, the Mars rover Curiosity

Astronomy News – The human journey to the beginning of space and time will get a detailed view of Mars using the Mast Camera on NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity, once the spacecraft lands on the surface of Mars, sometime around August 2012, according to the latest estimates by NASA astronomers. Space travel is by necessity extremely well planned and every detail must be worked out to a set time table if Curiosity is to accomplish its mission. All aspects of the mission parameters must be analysed and reanalysed to ensure everything works as expected and the mission sticks to the timetable set by engineers and scientists working to get the spacecraft ready to journey to Mars, sometime between November 25 and December 18, 2011. The Mast Camera on Curiosity is in fact two digital color cameras riding high on the mast, each capable of recording high-definition video at about 8 frames per second, and taking and storing thousands of full-color images of the Red Planet in an eight-gigabyte flash memory. Once they combine the information taken by both cameras scientists and engineers will get detailed 3-D images of Mars as good as or better than any taken before.

This sensor head will play a key role in the mission success of Curiosity

 

Curiosity  will conduct chemical tests of the soil and rocks of Mars

NASA’s Mars Rover will also have onboard a “chemical element reader” to measure the different chemical ingredients making up the soil and rocks of Mars. This particular instrument, along with nine others on board the spacecraft will be looking at the present and past ability habitability of a specific spot on the Red Planet. The Alpha Particle X-Ray Spectrometer (APXS) instrument viewed here was designed by physics professor Ralf Gellert of the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada. This instrument uses alpha particles, or helium nuclei, and X-rays to bombard the Martian soil or a rock, which will cause the target to emit its own characteristic alpha particles and X-ray radiation. This emitted radiation will be detected by an X-ray detector inside the sensor head, which will be analysed by Mars scientists to see which elements are within the soil or rock. The exact identification of the elements that make up the Martian soil and rocks will help planet scientists determine the building blocks of the Martian crust, and any possible weathering of the soil or rock since it was formed.

Check out NASA’s Curiosity here

The Mars Science Laboratory is managed by JPL, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena. For more information, visit http://www.nasa.gov/msl . You can follow the mission on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/MarsCuriosity and on Twitter @marscuriosity . A full listing of JPL social media accounts is at: http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/social .

Check out my newest astronomy website at http://astronomytonight.yolasite.com/.

 

Read about NASA’s Messenger spacecraft and its mission to Mercury

Have you heard about the recent meteorite that exploded near the Ural Mountains

Read about the supernova astronomers are studying looking for a black hole they think was created during the explosion

Astronomers used the Hubble Space Telescope and gravitational lensing to look at MACS 0647-JD

The Decades of the Hubble Space Telescope

The grand old guy is still the king of the telescopes

The development of the Hubble Space Telescope marked the beginning of a new age of the human journey to the beginning of space and time

Astronomy News – The history of human science and astronomy is ripe with stories of defining moments that opened new avenues of thought and belief in a universe humans had never experienced or dreamed of, before. The moment humans first looked upward into a sky they could neither understand nor comprehended, the history of stargazing and astronomy was written. The story of the first images humanity glimpsed through the instruments of the Hubble Space Telescope is just one defining moment that has opened roads of thought and belief astronomers and scientists had never dreamed before. The 20 years since these first Hubble images has defined a period of human history that will be remembered for astronomy milestones that opened never-before-seen parts of the universe to humans and showed us glimpses of things we never dared imagine. The recent refurbishing of the Hubble Space Telescope has allowed astronomers to look even further back in space and time to the beginning of the universe and along with the James Webb Space Telescope will soon take humanity on a journey to the beginning of space and time.

Hubble has allowed astronomers to determine many things about the universe

The launch of the Hubble Space Telescope into orbit around planet Earth on April 24, 1990, marked a moment in human history as pivotal as the moment Galileo first looked through his telescope at the world he had never seen before. During about 110,000 orbits the Hubble Space Telescope has helped about 4,000 astronomers from around the world takes over 570,000 images of about 30,000 celestial objects that have helped astronomers ask questions that will help define the future of human space studies for centuries to come. The information and data collected by the studies astronomers have conducted of the universe with the Hubble Space Telescope has also provided content for about 8,700 scientific papers and 648 journal articles, opened windows giving humans a view of parts of the universe we have dreamed of seeing, and the latest astronomy and science books.

The early universe was likely a place unlike anything we can picture

The Hubble Space Telescope has allowed the human journey to the beginning of space and time to travel closer and closer to the Big Bang

To date, the Hubble Space Telescope has shown us a view of the most distance celestial object we have viewed so far, about 13.2 billion years in the past. This view is about 150 million years further back in space and time than any previous view humans have seen of the universe. At this time in the lifespan of the universe, astronomers believe the universe was only about 500 million years old and the echoes of the big bang could still be heard.

The Hubble Space Telescope has also helped astronomers determine a number of different things about the universe, like the presence of supermassive black holes at the center of galaxies, planet-forming processes at work in the universe, and the presence of the first organic molecule scientists have found outside our solar system.

The James Webb Space Telescope will take the human journey to the beginning of space and time back to the time when it all began

The next twenty years of human space discovery will see the James Webb Space Telescope take up the torch-of-discovery the Hubble Space Telescope has carried for the past two decades. The grand old boy will still take astronomers on journeys of discovery for years to come, and show us views of reality that will open our eyes to the wonder of it all. The James Webb Space Telescope has yet to be launched into space and until this happens the Hubble Space Telescope is still the baddest telescope in the solar system.

Check out the newest astronomy website at http://astronomytonight.yolasite.com/.

13.2 billion years ago the universe was a totally different place

Read about NASA’s Messenger spacecraft and its mission to Mercury

Have you heard about the recent meteorite that exploded near the Ural Mountains

Read about the supernova astronomers are studying looking for a black hole they think was created during the explosion

Something Unusual, Something New

Some of the biggest explosions in the universe

Astronomy News – Supernovas are some of the most powerful and visually striking events observed during the human “Journey to the Beginning of Space and Time. Releasing more energy in a single moment than Sol will over its entire lifetime, a supernova is luminous enough to shine brighter in the night sky than entire galaxies during one moment in space and time, before slowly fading from view over several weeks or months. The force of a supernova expels a large percentage of a star’s mass into the darkness of space and time at about 10 percent of the speed of light and creates a shock wave that sweeps up the expanding shell of gas and dust released during the explosion referred to by astronomers as a supernova remnant. 

 Astronomers search for new supernovae

Astronomers using NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope to search the night sky for active galactic nuclei (AGN), super-massive black holes at the center of galaxies, recently reported the discovery of a supernova smothered in the remnants of its own star-dust during their search. This has astronomers scratching their heads in amazement at something they have never viewed during the human “Journey to the Beginning of Space and Time. Scientists think supernovas like this one probably occurred during the early universe, more than they do during present time, and this discovery has astronomers looking for answers to questions they never thought they would be asking.
 

Astronomers realised something was different

The recorded temperature of the object they were viewing was about 1,000 Kelvin (about 700 degrees Celsius), which is slightly hotter than the surface of Venus. This means something was dissipating the light energy of the supernova as heat? Astronomers wondered if the dust from the supernova could be choking off the light from the supernova and creating the heat they were viewing? Taking data from studies of NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope astronomers worked backward in space and time to see if they could figure out what kind of star could have theoretically created this supernova and if they could recreate a scenario where the dust from a supernova obscures the universe from the light released during the supernova. They calculated that the star in this supernova would have to be a giant star at least 50 times as massive as Sol. Astronomers have viewed these types of stars releasing huge clouds of dust as they near the end of their lives, but they calculated this particular star probably released clouds of stardust several times during this same period of time. The last cloud of stardust expelled would, therefore, be closer to this massive star, than earlier released clouds of stardust, they reasoned. If the earlier dust cloud was also opaque, it would absorb the light energy released during later energy releases, and this could certainly account for the hot dust cloud they observed through NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope.
 
This dust cloud obscures the dust from its parent star

Check out my latest astronomy website at http://astronomytonight.yolasite.com/.

Read about NASA’s Messenger spacecraft and its mission to Mercury

Have you heard about the recent meteorite that exploded near the Ural Mountains

Read about the supernova astronomers are studying looking for a black hole they think was created during the explosion

The First Possible Cradle for a New Human Genesis?

Six exo-planets are circling red dwarf star Gliese 581 20 light-years distant in the constellation Libra

 
Astronomy News – The human search for an exoplanet capable of being a cradle for a new human genesis found what many consider the first exoplanet with the physical makeup to make it possible. A team of planet hunters from the University of California (UC) Santa Cruz and the Carnegie Institute of Washington recently announced to the world the discovery of an exoplanet they believe has a few characteristics of an exoplanet with the right stuff to make life possible. Gliese 581g, as it’s referred too, has about three times the mass of Earth and appears to be situated in the right spot in the solar system of the red dwarf star Gliese 581 for the ingredients of life to exist. This is about dead center in what planet scientists term the habitable zone of Gliese 581, a position planet scientists believe could make it possible for water and an atmosphere to exist on this exoplanet, necessary ingredients for the formation of life, planet scientists believe. 

Astronomers search for a cradle for a new human genesis

 
These planet hunters have been using one of the largest time-machine-to-the-stars on the planet, the Keck I Telescope in Hawaii’s W.M Keck Observatory, to journey 20 light years to the constellation of Libra to continue the search for more planets circling red dwarf star Gliese 581 that could be habitable. Planet hunters have been using the HIRES spectrometer to precisely measure the radial velocity of the host star – the motion of the star along the line of sight from Earth – and stars close to red dwarf star Gliese 581, in order to try to find other planets circling this red dwarf star. The gravitational pull of orbiting planets causes periodic changes in the radial velocity of the host star that astronomers can calculate using sophisticated mathematical techniques we’ll cover on another day. These are the techniques planet hunters used in order to find all of the stars they have found circling red dwarf star Gliese 581, which after the two most recent planet discoveries, brings the total to six exoplanets circling this distant star.

Astronomers believe Gliese 581g is in the habitable zone of its home star

 
The discovery of six exoplanets circling red dwarf star Gliese 581 marks the high-planet mark for the human hunt for planets capable of being a cradle for a new human genesis. Gliese 581g is the only planet of the six exoplanets discovered that astronomers have indicated, so far, as being in the life zone of the red dwarf star Gliese 581. This exoplanet orbits its parent star in about 37 days and measurements planet scientists have made of its mass indicates it’s probably a rocky planet with a definite surface and enough gravity to hang onto an atmosphere. Gliese 581g is also tidally locked to its parent star, which means that one side of the planet is always facing its host star and in perpetual daylight. This makes some planet scientists believe that the best place for life to exist would be in the terminator, the part of the planet between the day and night sides of the planet.
  
Is this how the day would look on the daylight side of Gliese 581g?

 

 
Is there water on Gliese 581g and an atmosphere? Planet scientists are currently trying to find out

Check out my latest astronomy website at http://astronomytonight.yolasite.com/.

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