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.

Related Articles


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 November 20, 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 November 20, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Space & Time News

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Crowdfunded Moon Mission Offers To Store Your Digital Memory

Crowdfunded Moon Mission Offers To Store Your Digital Memory

Newsy (Nov. 19, 2014) Lunar Mission One is offering to send your digital memory (or even your DNA) to the moon to be stored for a billion years. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Accidents Ignite Debate on US Commercial Space Travel

Accidents Ignite Debate on US Commercial Space Travel

AFP (Nov. 19, 2014) Serious accidents with two US commercial spacecraft within a week of each-other in October have re-ignited the debate over the place of private corporations in the exploration of space. Duration: 02:08 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Lunar Mission One Could Send Your Hair to The Moon

Lunar Mission One Could Send Your Hair to The Moon

Buzz60 (Nov. 19, 2014) A British-led venture called Lunar Mission One plans to send a module to the moon with keepsakes from Earth. Vanessa Freeman (@VanessaFreeTV) tells you how to get your photos and DNA onboard. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com
Why A Russian Object Is Being Called A 'Satellite Killer'

Why A Russian Object Is Being Called A 'Satellite Killer'

Newsy (Nov. 18, 2014) An unidentified Russian spacecraft is getting some attention, with some saying it could be for research while others say it could be a weapon. 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:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Space & Time

Matter & Energy

Computers & Math

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