Saturday, January 05, 2008

Organic Molecules Found Outside our Solar System

Just as in our early Solar System, the disk of dust is in the process of forming planets. The collision of small bodies like asteroids and comets creates the dust in the disk, and the organic molecules present on these objects could then be scattered on any planets orbiting the star. This discovery makes it clear that it is possible for organic molecules to exist in the early stages of planet formation, paving the way for the possible development of life later on.


dad2059 said...

The commenters there mentioned that finding organic molecules in solar formations is old hat. I find it fascinating we can detect them in solar disks so young.

That one is what, 8 million years old?

Pretty young in stellar lives.

Mac said...

The commenters there mentioned that finding organic molecules in solar formations is old hat.

It is old hat. I think the novelty here is that we've tracked organics down to an extrasolar planetary system, although I suppose it's odd that we haven't managed it already given the current rate of discovery.

Elan said...

It might seem dreadfully outdated to quote Carl Sagan, but I for one find his phrase in this context to be right on the mark:
"The Cosmos is all that is or ever was or ever will be. Our feeblest contemplations of the Cosmos stir us — there is a tingling in the spine, a catch in the voice, a faint sensation, as if a distant memory, of falling from a height. We know we are approaching the greatest of mysteries.
The size and age of the Cosmos are beyond ordinary human understanding. Lost somewhere between immensity and eternity is our tiny planetary home. In a cosmic perspective, most human concerns seem insignificant, even petty. And yet our species is young and curious and brave and shows much promise. In the last few millennia we have made the most astonishing and unexpected discoveries about the Cosmos and our place within it, explorations that are exhilarating to consider. They remind us that humans have evolved to wonder, that understanding is a joy, that knowledge is prerequisite to survival. I believe our future depends on how well we know this Cosmos in which we float like a
For most of human history we have searched for our place in the cosmos. Who are we? What are we? We find that we inhabit an insignificant planet of a hum-drum star lost in a galaxy tucked away in some forgotten corner of a universe in which there are far more galaxies than people. This perspective is a courageous continuation of our penchant for constructing and testing mental models of the skies; the Sun as a red-hot stone, the stars as a celestial flame, the Galaxy as the backbone of night.
We are made of star stuff...We embarked on our cosmic voyage with a question first framed in the childhood of our species and in each generation asked anew with undiminished wonder: What are the stars? Exploration is in our nature. We began as wanderers, and we are wanderers still. We have lingered long enough on the shores of the cosmic ocean. We are ready at last to set sail for the stars.
If we long for our planet to be important, there is something we can do about it. We make our world significant by the courage of our questions and by the depth of our answers.
The Universe, we will one day find, is teeming with life…"

Mac said...

That's Sagan at his best right there. The man had a true sense of the numinous.

W.M. Bear said...

Visionary materialism at its finest, definitely. Freeman Dyson is another visionary materialist, as is Fred Hoyle....