Precursor To Life Found In Space Cloud
Astronomers have found tentative traces of a precursor chemical to the building blocks of life near a star-forming region about 1,000 light-years from Earth.
The signal from the molecule, hydroxylamine, which is made up of atoms of nitrogen, hydrogen and oxygen, still needs to be verified. But, if confirmed, it would mean scientists had found a chemical that could potentially seed life on other worlds, and may have played a role in life's origin on our home planet 3.7 billion years ago.
Some astronomers think that the ingredients for life are formed in cold, gas-, dust- and plasma-filled interstellar clouds. Comets, asteroids and meteors forming in these clouds bear such chemicals, and as they continually bombard planets, they could have deposited the chemicals on Earth or other worlds, said Anthony Remijan, an astrochemist at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory in Charlottesville, Va., who led the research effort.
To test this theory, astronomers look for the chemical fingerprints of simple, inorganic compounds forming in interstellar clouds. These compounds aren't life or even carbon-based, but they can react with other molecules to form some of the building blocks of life, such as amino acids or the nucleotides that make up DNA...
In the hunt for these molecules, Remijan and colleagues scanned a star-forming region of the Milky Way called L1157-B1 using the Combined Array for Research in Millimeter-wave Astronomy (CARMA).
They found a very weak signal of hydroxylamine, which makes sense since, inside L1157-B1, a violent gas jet is slamming into the interstellar medium; the shock from this gas outflow would be sufficient force to trigger these chemical reactions in the otherwise frigid depths of an interstellar cloud. The result: hydroxylamine. In turn, hydroxylamine could react with other compounds, such as acetic acid, to form amino acids that could be dumped onto other worlds during space-rock collisions.
In his 1957 book The Black Cloud, astronomer and sf author Fred Hoyle discusses the possibility of an intelligent, living cloud in space. Not to sensationalize this story, but here's one of the covers of Hoyle's novel; the 1959 paperback edition.
(Earth menaced by a power beyond the planets and older than time!)
And here's a quote from the cloud:
[I]t is most unusual to find animals with technical skills inhabiting planets, which are in the nature of extreme outposts of life... Living on the surface of a solid body, you are exposed to a strong gravitational force. This greatly limits the size to which your animals can grow and hence limits the scope of your neurological activity. It forces you to possess muscular structures to promote movements, and ... to carry protective armour ...
[Y]our very largest animals have been mostly bone and muscle with very little brain... By and large, one only expects intelligent life to exist in a diffuse gaseous medium... The second unfavourable factor is your extreme lack of basic chemical foods. For the building of chemical foods on a large scale starlight is necessary. Your planet, however, absorbs only a very minute fraction of the light from the Sun. At the moment, I myself am building basic chemicals at about 10,000,000,000 times the rate at which building is occurring on the whole ... surface of your planet.
Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 1/14/2013)
Follow this kind of news @Technovelgy.
| Email | RSS | Blog It | Stumble | del.icio.us | Digg | Reddit |
you like to contribute a story tip?
Get the URL of the story, and the related sf author, and add
Comment/Join discussion ( 1 )
Related News Stories -
LightSail Solar Sail Deploys
'This was the first time any solar yacht had ever attained it...'- Arthur C. Clarke, 1964.
Suit Up! Fifty Years Of Spacewalks Video
'I experienced for a few minutes the delicious, indescribable pleasure of being a little planet...'- Garrett P. Serviss, 1898.
Microbes To Terraform Mars?
'Terraform the little rock...'- Jack Williamson, 1941.
Tyson Says Asteroid Miners Will Be First Trillionaires
'...Come together here under the influence of their mutual gravitation, and formed a little metallic planet.'- Garrett P. Serviss, 1898.
Technovelgy (that's tech-novel-gee!)
is devoted to the creative science inventions and ideas of sf authors. Look for
the Invention Category that interests
you, the Glossary, the Invention
Timeline, or see what's New.
Brainwaves As Biometric Identification
'The doors of Mr. Lars, Incorporated, shut, tuned as they were to his own cephalic pattern.'
What-If Machine Concocts Creative Premises
'Books were just a commodity that had to be produced, like jam or bootlaces.'
Underwater Balloon Gardens
'He puffed heavily as he angled around the bulbous lifezones...'
Storing 1 Zettabyte In 10 Grams
'It is theoretically possible to have a matrix in which each individual molecule has a meaning...'
Laser-Powered Spacecraft To Explore The Solar System
'Whoever launched it fired a laser cannon... for about forty-five years, so the intruder would have a beam to travel on...'
Skin Chair For That 'Sitting On A Fat Guy' Feeling
'The semi-sentient artifact glided to a position behind McKie...'
Pneumatic Micro-Tentacles Kidnapping Ants
'Long, flexible, glittering tentacles...'
Bee Narcs To Perform Drug 'Stings'
'Time for a replacement of both Behren and his dipterous insect...'
3D Printed Spherical Flying Machine
'Gold dots against blue, basketball-sized, twelve feet up....'
Airbus E-Fan All-Electric Plane Now Ready
I couldn't believe it, either.
Robot Swarms Improve Culture By Forgetting
'My mind was filled to the splitting point...'
Melomics Avant Garde Computer Musician
'Rollo sat at the keyboard, prim, inhuman, rigid, twin lenses focused somewhere off into the shadows...'
Nanotech Used To Create Custom Water Filters In Tanzania
'People started out squeamish about Clearsacs...'
This Robot Swordmaster: Yaskawa Bushido Project
'The instrument of prisms and target could not think, feel caution or remorse. And it carried a real blade.'
Samsung's Transparent Display Finally As Big As HG Wells'
Wells also figured out that 16x9 is the shape to have.
Thync Mood-Changing Wearable Device
'Very gently, hypnotically, the electronic pulses throbbed in the frontal lobes of his brain.'
More SF in the News Stories
More Beyond Technovelgy science news stories