Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Raw Ingredients For Life Detected In Planetary Construction Zones

Date:
May 28, 2004
Source:
NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory
Summary:
NASA has announced new findings from the Spitzer Space Telescope, including the discovery of significant amounts of icy organic materials sprinkled throughout several "planetary construction zones," or dusty planet-forming discs, which circle infant stars.

One of the most prolific birthing grounds in our Milky Way galaxy, a nebula called RCW 49, is exposed in superb detail for the first time in this new image from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope. Located 13,700 light-years away in the southern constellation Centaurus, RCW 49 is a dark and dusty stellar nursery that houses more than 2,200 stars.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/E. Churchwell, University of Wisconsin

NASA has announced new findings from the Spitzer Space Telescope, including the discovery of significant amounts of icy organic materials sprinkled throughout several "planetary construction zones," or dusty planet-forming discs, which circle infant stars.

These materials, icy dust particles coated with water, methanol and carbon dioxide, may help explain the origin of icy planetoids like comets. Scientists believe these comets may have endowed Earth with some of its water and many of its biogenic, life-enabling materials.

Drs. Dan Watson and William Forrest of the University of Rochester, N.Y, identified the ices. They surveyed five very young stars in the constellation Taurus, 420 light-years from Earth. Previous studies identified similar organic materials in space, but this is the first time they were seen unambiguously in the dust making up planet-forming discs.

In another finding, Spitzer surveyed a group of young stars and found intriguing evidence that one of them may have the youngest planet detected. The observatory found a clearing in the disc around the star CoKu Tau 4. This might indicate an orbiting planet swept away the disc material, like a vacuum leaving a cleared trail on a dirty carpet. The new findings reveal the structure of the gap more clearly than ever before. Because CoKu Tau 4 is only about one million years old, the possible planet would be even younger. As a comparison, Earth is approximately 4.5-billion years old.

"These early results show Spitzer will dramatically expand our understanding of how stars and planets form, which ultimately helps us understand our origins," said Dr. Michael Werner, Spitzer project scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), Pasadena, Calif., which manages the mission.

Spitzer also discovered two of the farthest and faintest planet-forming discs ever observed. These discs surround two of more than 300 newborn stars uncovered for the first time in a stunning new image of the dusty stellar nursery called RCW 49. It is approximately 13,700 light-years from Earth in the constellation Centaurus.

"Preliminary data suggest all 300 or more stars harbor discs, but so far we've only looked closely at two. Both were found to have discs," said Dr. Ed Churchwell of the University of Wisconsin, Madison, Wis., principal investigator of the RCW 49 research, with Dr. Barbara Whitney of Space Science Institute, Boulder, Colo.

Planet forming, "protoplanetary," discs are a natural phase in a star's life. A star is born inside a dense envelope of gas and dust. Within this envelope, and circling the star, is a flat, dusty disc, where planets are born.

"By seeing what's behind the dust, Spitzer has shown us star and planet formation is a very active process in our galaxy," Churchwell said.

Spitzer's exquisitely sensitive infrared eyes can see planet forming discs in great detail. "Previously, scientists could study only a small sample of discs, but Spitzer is already on its way toward analyzing thousands of discs," Werner said.

Spitzer's infrared spectrograph instrument, which breaks apart infrared light to see the signatures of various chemicals, was used to observe the organic ices and the clearing within CoKu Tau 4's disc. Spitzer's infrared array camera found the new stars in RCW 49. Papers on the research will appear in the September 1, 2004, issue of the journal Astrophysical Journal Supplements. For images and information about the research on the Internet, visit: http://www.spitzer.caltech.edu &http://photojournal.jpl.nasa.gov

For information about NASA and agency programs on the Internet, visit: http://www.nasa.gov


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory. "Raw Ingredients For Life Detected In Planetary Construction Zones." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 28 May 2004. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2004/05/040527232732.htm>.
NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory. (2004, May 28). Raw Ingredients For Life Detected In Planetary Construction Zones. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 31, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2004/05/040527232732.htm
NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory. "Raw Ingredients For Life Detected In Planetary Construction Zones." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2004/05/040527232732.htm (accessed July 31, 2014).

Share This




More Space & Time News

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Supply Ship Takes Off for International Space Station

Supply Ship Takes Off for International Space Station

AFP (July 30, 2014) The European Space Agency's fifth Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV-5) is takes off to the International Space Station on an Ariane 5 rocket from French Guiana. Duration: 00:34 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Rocket Launches Into Space With Cargo Ship

Raw: Rocket Launches Into Space With Cargo Ship

AP (July 30, 2014) Arianespace launched a rocket Tuesday from French Guiana carrying a robotic cargo ship to deliver provisions to the International Space Station. (July 30) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
In Virginia, the Rise of a New Space Coast

In Virginia, the Rise of a New Space Coast

AP (July 30, 2014) Every summer, tourists make the pilgrimage to Chincoteague Island, Va. to see wild ponies cross the Assateague Channel. But, it's the rockets sending to supplies to the International Space Station that are making this a year-round destination. (July 30) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Russia Saves Gecko Sex Satellite, Media Has Some Fun With It

Russia Saves Gecko Sex Satellite, Media Has Some Fun With It

Newsy (July 27, 2014) The satellite is back under ground control after a tense few days, but with a gecko sex experiment on board, the media just couldn't help themselves. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

    Environment News

    Technology News



      Save/Print:
      Share:

      Free Subscriptions


      Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

      Get Social & Mobile


      Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

      Have Feedback?


      Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
      Mobile: iPhone Android Web
      Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
      Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
      Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins