Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Astronomer To Search Space For Precursors Of Life

Date:
May 6, 2009
Source:
University of Michigan
Summary:
Many of the organic molecules that make up life on Earth have also been found in space. Astronomers will use the Herschel Space Observatory to study these chemical compounds in new detail in the warm clouds of gas and dust around young stars.

The Orion Nebula is one of the places where astronomer Ted Bergin will search for organic molecules using the Herschel Space Observatory.
Credit: European Southern Observatory

Many of the organic molecules that make up life on Earth have also been found in space. A University of Michigan astronomer will use the Herschel Space Observatory to study these chemical compounds in new detail in the warm clouds of gas and dust around young stars.

They hope to gain insights into how organic molecules form in space, and possibly, how life formed on Earth.

"The chemistry of space makes molecules that are the precursors of life. It's possible that the Earth didn't have to make these things on its own, but that they were provided from space," said Ted Bergin, an associate professor in the Department of Astronomy.

Bergin is a co-investigator on the Heterodyne Instrument for the Infrared aboard Herschel and a principal investigator on one of its key observing programs. Herschel, a European Space Agency mission with NASA participation, is scheduled to launch May 6. An orbiting telescope that will unlock new wavelengths on the electromagnetic spectrum, it will allow astronomers to observe at the far-infrared wavelengths where organic molecules and water emit their chemical signatures.

"We'll be studying the full extent of chemistry in space and we hope to learn what types of organics are out there as a function of their distance from a star," Bergin said. "And we want to understand the chemical machinery that led to the formation of these organics."

Meteorites flecked with amino acids, which make proteins, have fallen to Earth from space. In faraway galaxies and stellar nurseries, astronomers have detected complex organic sugar and hydrocarbon molecules that are key components in chlorophyll in plants and RNA. Bergin expects to detect tens if not hundreds of these kinds of compounds---some of which have never been found before outside the Earth.

He is also involved in a Herschel project to look for water molecules in space. Traces of water in warm clouds of gas and dust around young stars could hold clues to how water forms and behaves in space, and how this elixir of life came to be so abundant on Earth. Scientists believe water got to Earth in a similar way as organic molecules.

"Most of the water in the solar system is not where we are, but further out in the solar system," Bergin said. "Most theories suggest that the Earth formed dry and impacts from asteroids or other objects provided the water here."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Michigan. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University of Michigan. "Astronomer To Search Space For Precursors Of Life." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 6 May 2009. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/04/090429151946.htm>.
University of Michigan. (2009, May 6). Astronomer To Search Space For Precursors Of Life. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 21, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/04/090429151946.htm
University of Michigan. "Astronomer To Search Space For Precursors Of Life." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/04/090429151946.htm (accessed September 21, 2014).

Share This



More Space & Time News

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

SpaceX Cargo Ship Blasts Off Toward Space Station

SpaceX Cargo Ship Blasts Off Toward Space Station

AFP (Sep. 21, 2014) SpaceX's unmanned Dragon cargo ship blasts off toward the International Space Station, carrying a load of supplies and science experiments for the astronauts living there. Duration: 00:35 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
NASA's MAVEN To Study Martian Atmosphere

NASA's MAVEN To Study Martian Atmosphere

Newsy (Sep. 21, 2014) NASA's Maven will soon give information that could explain what happened to Mars' atmosphere. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
3-D Printing Enters The Final Frontier

3-D Printing Enters The Final Frontier

Newsy (Sep. 21, 2014) NASA sent a 3-D printer to the International Space Station, bringing manufacturing to space for the first time. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
MIT BioSuit A New Take On Traditional Spacesuits

MIT BioSuit A New Take On Traditional Spacesuits

Newsy (Sep. 19, 2014) The MIT BioSuit could be an alternative to big, bulky traditional spacesuits, but the concept needs some work. 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