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For the first time, scientists find complex organic molecules in an infant star system



Artist impression of the protoplanetary disk surrounding the young star MWC 480. ALMA has detected the complex organic molecule methyl cyanide in the outer reaches of the disk in the region where comets are believed to form. This is another indication that complex organic chemistry, and potentially the conditions necessary for life, is universal. (B. Saxton/NRAO/AUI/NSF)



Excerpt from washingtonpost.com

We're not special. Or our complex organic molecules aren't, anyway. And that's good news in the hunt for extraterrestrial life.

In a new study published Wednesday in Nature, astronomers found the first signs of the complex, carbon-based molecules that make life possible on Earth in a protoplanetary disk; the region where cosmic building blocks gather to create planets in a brand-new star system. The cyanides found there are essential to life as we know it: without them, there would be no proteins.

"We know when our own solar system was very young, it was rich in water and complex organics. We know that from observing comets," explained study author Karin Öberg, an assistant professor of astronomy at Harvard. Comets have kept the molecules of our solar system's early days locked up tight ever since, which is why scientists are so eager to study them for clues about Earth's formation. These comets show us that certain organic molecules were common in our solar system's pre-planetary days.

But this is the first time we've seen evidence of such molecules ready to seed another star system with planets that could support life.
"We're finding that we're not that special," Öberg said. "Other young solar systems in the making are also rich in the same volatiles, and in similar proportions."

And in this case, she said, being not-special is a great thing: If other solar systems formed just the way ours did, we can hope that they formed some kind of life, too.

Öberg and her colleagues found the molecules using the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA), a radio telescope with some pretty sweet resolution. They spotted the complex organics as much as 15 billion kilometers from the star itself, which they believe is right smack dab in the middle of the system's comet-forming region. That means the organics could get locked away in comets, just as the ones in our solar system were, and go out to seed future planets with them (as some believe was the case with Earth).

"It was kind of a chance discovery, because we weren't targeting this specific molecule," Öberg said. So she and her team need to go back and look more systematically. She also hopes they'll be able to find more systems to look at. The star they've observed -- MWC 480, located some 455 light-years away in the Taurus star-forming region -- is twice the mass of the sun, so they also hope to find some that are more similar to our host star.

 "We of course want to know whether this is a really common thing or if we just lucked out on this one," Öberg said.

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Puzzle of Moon’s origin resolved


It now seems more probable that a collision between two planets of similar composition led to the formation of the Moon.




Excerpt from nature.com


A nagging problem at the heart of the leading theory of how the Moon formed seems to have been explained away.

The ‘giant impact’ hypothesis, first proposed in the 1970s, suggests that the Moon was formed from the debris scattered when a Mars-sized planet slammed into the early Earth some 4.5 billion years ago. This fits well with what we know about the Moon, including its mass and lack of any significant iron core.

But the theory also implies that the Moon is made up mostly of impactor material. Since lunar and Earth rocks have such similar compositions, this suggests that Earth and the planet that smacked into it resembled each other too. They would have needed to be sister planets, with a relationship much closer than that of any other planetary bodies we have studied in our Solar System. The odds of this being possible were thought to be around a 1% chance, or “uncomfortably rare”, according to Robin Canup, a planetary researcher at the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado1.

Better odds

Now it seems that the scenario is not so far-fetched, says Hagai Perets, an astrophysicist at the Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa. He and his colleagues performed simulations of the Solar System’s formation, to investigate how similar planets tend to be to their last giant impactor. They estimated that for 20% to 40% of collisions, the two bodies would be sufficiently similar to explain the Moon’s composition — considerably better odds. The findings are published in Nature2.

The planets would have closely resembled each other because of their similar distance from the Sun, meaning that they would have formed from the same kind of orbiting proto-planetary material. “The Earth and the Moon are not twins born from the same planet, but they are sisters in the sense that they grew up in the same environment,” says Perets.

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Buried Mars Glaciers are Brimming With Water

Researchers have identified thousands of glacier-like formations on the planet.
NASA/Levy et al./Nanna Karlsson



Excerpt from news.discovery.com

Glaciers beneath the dusty sands of Mars contain enough water to coat the planet with more than three feet of ice, a new study shows.
“We have calculated that the ice in the glaciers is equivalent to over 150 billion cubic meters of ice — that much ice could cover the entire surface of Mars with 1.1 meters (3.6 feet) of ice,” Nanna Bjørnholt Karlsson, a post-doctoral researcher the Niels Bohr Institute at the University of Copenhagen, said in a statement.

Radar images previously revealed thousands of buried glacier-like formations in the planet’s northern and southern hemispheres.
That data has now been incorporated into computer models of ice flow to determine the glaciers’ size and hence how much water they contain.

“We have looked at radar measurements spanning 10 years back in time to see how thick the ice is and how it behaves. A glacier is, after all, a big chunk of ice and it flows and gets a form that tells us something about how soft it is. We then compared this with how glaciers on Earth behave and from that we have been able to make models for the ice flow,” she said.

The glaciers are located in belts around Mars between 30 degrees and 50 degrees latitude, roughly equivalent to just south of Denmark’s location on Earth. The glaciers are found on both the northern and southern hemispheres.

The finding could be an important clue to what happened to Mars’ water. The planet, which is now a cold, dry desert, once had oceans, lakes and habitats suitable for microbial life, results from past and ongoing science missions show.

“The ice at the mid-latitudes is an important part of Mars’ water reservoir,” Karlsson said.

Scientists suspect the thick layer of dust covering the ice has saved if from evaporating out into space.

The study appears in this week’s Geophysical Research Letters.

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The 3 Stages Of Spiritual Enlightenment

Spiritual enlightenment is the fundamental goal of most spiritual practices that you undertake. Enlightenment marks the culminating point of your practice you feel unity of soul with everything, all the mental and physical engagements are left aside. Spiritual enlightenment is the possession of highly evolved souls.  Spiritual masters from all over over the world experience spiritual enlightenment, and help others on their own paths.Spiritual enlightenment is often categori [...]

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Video – This is the incredible story of 32 year old Aaron and his 100 day juice fast. This 10-minute video shows his progress from 333 pounds down to 222 pounds 3 months later. In the last minute you will see his before and after pictures – the difference in his weight and color are astonishing! [...]

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Fracking Pollutes California Water While Individuals Suffer

Jefferey Jaxen, ContributorBillions of gallons contaminatedAs California lawmakers decide if resident ‘water wasters’ should face jail time as a drought strikes the state, water agencies are busy working on higher rates and fees to penalize individual residents. This is happening while the act of hydraulic fracturing is polluting massive amounts of water in the state. As the main facilitator in the pollution of California’s two biggest fresh wate [...]

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