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Young Star System Found to be Host to Organic Molecules

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posted on Apr, 10 2015 @ 09:12 PM
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Now before anyone gets too excited, organic in this sense does not mean they are due to life (the star system is still forming, it's far too young for life to have formed). Organic here refers to organic chemistry, or chemistry based on and kinda centered around carbon molecules often involving hydrogen, oxygen and nitrogen. The molecules which make up life as we know it.

However the research using millimeter and submillimeter astronomy (the region of the electromagnetic spectrum between radio waves and infrared light) is very encouraging because it implies that the stuff we're made out of is everywhere and actually forms as part of the planet formation process.

And perhaps that stuff....if given the right conditions and time...life.

The story below ties right into this thread I posted here recently.

Excerpts below from this article at Astronomy Now bolded by me for emphasis, with my comments:


Scientists using the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array have found a complex carbon-based molecule in a protoplanetary disc around a young star – in quantities enough to fill all of Earth’s oceans – hinting that prebiotic chemistry is indeed universal and not limited to our Solar System.


That bolded part is very important in the search for life. We have long established universal laws of physics. What we are now approaching may be a universal understanding of prebiotic chemistry (and perhaps in the future, biology).

Millimeter and submillimeter astronomy (also called terahertz astronomy) is sometimes referred to as molecular imaging, because the wavelengths of light used are perfect, given their low energy and related cool temperatures, for picking up chemical molecules in the interstellar medium.



Millimeter and submillimeter astronomy such as that done at ALMA, the world's premier millimeter and submillimeter observatory has been key in showing how common many of the materials needed for life, like amino acids, the building blocks of proteins, and PAHs (poly aromatic hydrocarbons) which are key constituents of cell membranes are in the universe.

Continuing....




Methyl cyanide (CH3CN), along with hydrogen cyanide (HCN) were both detected in the cold, outer regions of the nascent disc surrounding MWC 480, a million year old protostar at the heart of the system. These species are of particular interest as molecules such as cyanides contain carbon-nitrogen bonds, pathways that assist in the production of amino acids – the structural elements from which proteins are built.

“From the study of exoplanets, we know the Solar System isn’t unique in its number of planets or abundance of water,” says lead author of the new paper, Karin Öberg, an astronomer with the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA. “We now have evidence that this same chemistry exists elsewhere in the Universe, in regions that could form solar systems not unlike our own.”



And since the same chemistry exists elsewhere in the Universe then it logically follows that life based on that chemistry also exists elsewhere in the universe and because we understand the chemistry it might be based on, we can devise methods to detect it remotely via telescopes.



The molecules found around MWC 480 were detected in a zone analogous to our own Kuiper Belt, the home of comets and ice-laden objects orbiting beyond Neptune and intriguingly, these type of molecules are also found in similar concentrations in our own solar system’s comets. It is thought that comets are the remnants left over from the formation of the Solar System, frozen records of the conditions in this early epoch. As the planets evolved, it is possible that comets (and asteroids) from these outer regions brought water to Earth, along with organic molecules. If this is the case, then these molecules could have helped life to get established on Earth.

But what are the chances of these molecules surviving the turbulent conditions of this infant disc, as it matures to an established exo-system? As such a large abundance of these molecules were found, more than would be found in interstellar clouds, researchers hypothesise that these species are being produced very efficiently in the protoplanetary disc and on a relatively fast timescale. This rapid formation is crucial in ensuring their survival. It is likely therefore, that these molecules could be sequestered into objects for later dispersal around the evolving exo-system, possible seeding life elsewhere in the Universe in a similar process suggested to have occurred in our own Solar System.


And that bolded part is most interesting of all and as per my other thread I referred to above, another piece in the puzzle.
edit on 10-4-2015 by JadeStar because: (no reason given)

edit on 10-4-2015 by JadeStar because: (no reason given)




posted on Apr, 10 2015 @ 09:26 PM
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a reply to: JadeStar

Maybe someday we will find some proto DNA in our solar system, I always liked Crick's panspermia idea.



posted on Apr, 10 2015 @ 09:47 PM
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originally posted by: greencmp
a reply to: JadeStar

Maybe someday we will find some proto DNA in our solar system, I always liked Crick's panspermia idea.


Finding proto DNA in our solar system would pretty amazing. Especially if it had the opposite chirality (or handedness) as that of the DNA of all life on Earth.

That would be almost as amazing as finding life itself.

edit on 10-4-2015 by JadeStar because: (no reason given)



posted on Apr, 10 2015 @ 09:59 PM
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a reply to: JadeStar
What would be the implications of finding an enantiomer of DNA or the amino acids it is composed of compared to finding the molecule itself?



posted on Apr, 10 2015 @ 10:05 PM
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a reply to: JadeStar

Especially if it had the opposite chirality (or handedness) as that of the DNA of all life on Earth.

That would be almost as amazing as finding life itself.


It would be the smoking gun, the very evidence all these brilliant scientists have been searching for. Indisputable evidence that life is abundant in our universe. I dream of the day.

Anyway, keep up the good work mate, I get excited when I see a new thread of yours. Always very fascinating.
edit on 10-4-2015 by Subaeruginosa because: (no reason given)



posted on Apr, 10 2015 @ 10:12 PM
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originally posted by: JadeStar

originally posted by: greencmp
a reply to: JadeStar

Maybe someday we will find some proto DNA in our solar system, I always liked Crick's panspermia idea.


Finding proto DNA in our solar system would pretty amazing. Especially if it had the opposite chirality (or handedness) as that of the DNA of all life on Earth.

That would be almost as amazing as finding life itself.


Yes though, that would sort of defy the premise of Crick's postulate which relied upon uniformity as confirmation that it all came from the same source.

Back to square one!




posted on Apr, 10 2015 @ 10:25 PM
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originally posted by: BGTM90
a reply to: JadeStar
What would be the implications of finding an enantiomer of DNA or the amino acids it is composed of compared to finding the molecule itself?


Hmmm... well...

It would be huge because it would be the first time we "found it in the wild" in space, rather than synthesized it in a lab. That implies life either could go either way or there was something special about the chirality of Earth DNA which made it favorable to life on Earth.



posted on Apr, 10 2015 @ 10:26 PM
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originally posted by: greencmp

originally posted by: JadeStar

originally posted by: greencmp
a reply to: JadeStar

Maybe someday we will find some proto DNA in our solar system, I always liked Crick's panspermia idea.


Finding proto DNA in our solar system would pretty amazing. Especially if it had the opposite chirality (or handedness) as that of the DNA of all life on Earth.

That would be almost as amazing as finding life itself.


Yes though, that would sort of defy the premise of Crick's postulate which relied upon uniformity as confirmation that it all came from the same source.

Back to square one!



Yeah but that would be equally awesome!



posted on Apr, 10 2015 @ 10:33 PM
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originally posted by: Subaeruginosa
a reply to: JadeStar

Especially if it had the opposite chirality (or handedness) as that of the DNA of all life on Earth.

That would be almost as amazing as finding life itself.


It would be the smoking gun, the very evidence all these brilliant scientists have been searching for. Indisputable evidence that life is abundant in our universe. I dream of the day.

Anyway, keep up the good work mate, I get excited when I see a new thread of yours. Always very fascinating.


Thanks.

I have to say, one thing, that kind of is the 'dirty little secret' in some circles of astrobiology is the fear that if and when we find life on Mars, or Europa or Titan or wherever and find out it is based on exactly the same DNA as life on Earth.

The reason is because it would spark a whole huge debate over whether there was a separate "genesis" on Mars, etc, with life forming there independently or whether it was the result of solar system wide contamination from meteors striking the Earth in the past.

So....if we find life out there and it has the same chirality as we do look out!

Not only would the debate I mentioned be sparked but there would have to be extreme precautions in how such life were handled if it were brought into contact with humans or spacecraft humans would interact with at all since it could possibly be a danger (ie: alien virus).

If the chirality is opposite of Earth DNA then we're safe as microbes or viruses based on it could not interact with life on our planet in a negative way.


edit on 10-4-2015 by JadeStar because: (no reason given)

edit on 10-4-2015 by JadeStar because: (no reason given)



posted on Apr, 10 2015 @ 10:59 PM
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a reply to: JadeStar

Has it even been proven that DNA made from the enantiomer's of it's amino acids would be capable of replicating? do the enantiomers fit together to create a double helix?
edit on 10-4-2015 by BGTM90 because: (no reason given)

edit on 10-4-2015 by BGTM90 because: (no reason given)



posted on Apr, 10 2015 @ 11:42 PM
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originally posted by: BGTM90
a reply to: JadeStar

Has it even been proven that DNA made from the enantiomer's of it's amino acids would be capable of replicating? do the enantiomers fit together to create a double helix?


Yes.



posted on Apr, 11 2015 @ 12:13 AM
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a reply to: JadeStar

If you take this information, combined with your other referenced and quite excellent thread and add in the data from this paper- www.nature.com...

and include some other information associated with your source material such as some found here- www.space.com...

There can be some really interesting analogues derived from a compare and contrast of our own solar system and that of MWC 480. For example, In MWC 480, these organics are found at a distance that is the equivalent of 30-100 AU which would be the equivalent of our Kuiper Belt. These same organic molecules are found in comets in our system, comets are thought, but please correct me of I'm wrong because as an Anthropologist I'm a touch outside my comfort zone here but appreciate the implications this has on my own field, but comets are thought to be formed in the Kuiper Belt.

Essentially, my point is that the analogue with our own system is that these molecules are found at the same distances in MWC 480 associated with the formation of comets in our system, it's a fact that comets bombarded the planets in the early history of our system, comets today have the same organic molecules as seen in the formation of this new system, ergo if comets in our system bombarded the planets(and moons) with these molecules and new research has demonstrated that molecular fragments can self replicate and grow into repeating chemical chains long enough to act as a basis for primitive life in addition to your other thread showing the work done at Ames research center that demonstrates that they have generated three key components of RNA and DNA in the lab makes concepts like panspermia far more likely in the long run.

One question I have been pondering though and perhaps you can point me in the right direction is... is there a difference in the type and frequency of elements and compounds created in a 1st generation star system compared to a 3rd or 4th gen system like the one we currently inhabit? Because I think it would stand to reason that the elements and compounds existing within these proto planetary discs would affect what or if, organic molecules are able to form. Or am I over thinking this?



posted on Apr, 11 2015 @ 12:53 AM
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originally posted by: peter vlar
a reply to: JadeStar

If you take this information, combined with your other referenced and quite excellent thread and add in the data from this paper- www.nature.com...

and include some other information associated with your source material such as some found here- www.space.com...


Exactly! That's why I was excited to post this story today because it fit right in with the one I had just posted. Puzzle pieces which fit right together so to speak.


There can be some really interesting analogues derived from a compare and contrast of our own solar system and that of MWC 480. For example, In MWC 480, these organics are found at a distance that is the equivalent of 30-100 AU which would be the equivalent of our Kuiper Belt. These same organic molecules are found in comets in our system, comets are thought, but please correct me of I'm wrong because as an Anthropologist I'm a touch outside my comfort zone here but appreciate the implications this has on my own field, but comets are thought to be formed in the Kuiper Belt.


No you're not wrong at all. That is exactly what this research implies, that most stars have similar belts of stuff like this and in fact we kind of knew that already. The big takeaway is that it is in these areas where the precursor molecules beneficial to the formation of like DNA and RNA may also form.



Essentially, my point is that the analogue with our own system is that these molecules are found at the same distances in MWC 480 associated with the formation of comets in our system, it's a fact that comets bombarded the planets in the early history of our system, comets today have the same organic molecules as seen in the formation of this new system, ergo if comets in our system bombarded the planets(and moons) with these molecules and new research has demonstrated that molecular fragments can self replicate and grow into repeating chemical chains long enough to act as a basis for primitive life in addition to your other thread showing the work done at Ames research center that demonstrates that they have generated three key components of RNA and DNA in the lab makes concepts like panspermia far more likely in the long run.


Correct. Because we know that comets brought volatiles to the inner solar system during the era called "heavy bombardment" but we also know based on the Ames research that the planets (and moons) themselves already may have had complex molecules like Pyrimidine and Uracil since the materials in the circumstellar disc surrounding the protostar could have shielded them from radiation.

It's two data points, pointing to an astounding conclusion.

While panspermia as in the transport of living, viable organisms across interstellar space and deep time probably isn't valid, a similar idea involving the precursors of life perhaps even up to RNA itself could be valid.

And that's almost as cool as traditional interstellar panspermia ideas.


One question I have been pondering though and perhaps you can point me in the right direction is... is there a difference in the type and frequency of elements and compounds created in a 1st generation star system compared to a 3rd or 4th gen system like the one we currently inhabit?


Yes.

In general, we astronomers and astrophysicists divide these ancient stars from recent ones like our Sun be denoting them as Population I or Population II stars. (there's also a hypothetical Population III category which I'll not go into since they're irrelevant to this discussion)

Population I stars are stars like our Sun, stars with an abundance of heavy elements (defined here as anything heavier than Helium really).

Population II stars are the ancients and are usually found near the center of a galaxy (our Milky Way for example). They're also found in globular clusters but because of gravitational interactions as the clusters move about the galaxy over time, some stars can be flung from these areas into places where Population I stars are dominant, like in the spiral arms of our galaxy where we reside.

In fact there is one in our local neighborhood, which is called Kapteyn's Star. Its around 13 light years away (12.8 to be precise) and interestingly enough, it also happens to have an terrestrial sized planet orbiting in its habitable zone:



Kapteyn's star is thought to be a former member of the Omega Centauri Globular Cluster before being perturbed into an orbit around the Milky Way which presently has it 13 ly from Sol.

Population II stars tend to be dimmer, cooler and older than Population I stars. As I said, they have fewer heavy elements (called "metal poor"), either because they are older or forming in places where no heavy element producing predecessors were. A star's "metallicity" is used often in this basic way as an indication of age.


Because I think it would stand to reason that the elements and compounds existing within these proto planetary discs would affect what or if, organic molecules are able to form. Or am I over thinking this?


Not at all. These are open question which is an area of intense study. If old Population II stars can form planets, what else could they have formed? Would these metal poor stars have similar cold belts around them? And if so would the distance of such belts from them make the transportation of volatiles to their planets less likely? Would they even be needed in the first place?

All key questions in which just by asking them are challenging older ideas as a result of newer data.

I mean, I've seen astronomy texts which are only like 15 years old state that it was unlikely that Population II stars would have planets due being metal poor.

We now know that not only is that not the case but that planets around such stars may be the most enticing places to start our search for atmospheric biosignatures, in part due to the length of time nature has had to cook up something interesting.


Shows just how rapidly information in this field changes.
edit on 11-4-2015 by JadeStar because: (no reason given)



posted on Apr, 11 2015 @ 02:14 AM
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originally posted by: JadeStar
The reason is because it would spark a whole huge debate over whether there was a separate "genesis" on Mars, etc, with life forming there independently or whether it was the result of solar system wide contamination from meteors striking the Earth in the past.
What about contamination from the present?

Mars: Fears Curiosity Will Contaminate Planet

Mars may be contaminated by microbes from Earth after strict procedures were breached before the Curiosity probe launched, a key Nasa official has revealed.




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