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Star-forming gas cloud. In regions like this scientists search for compounds that might make life possible. Foto: NASA

Posted in Random Science Stuff, Random Science Stuff home by WTF Emma-vdw 0 Comments

Do you believe in extraterrestrial life? If you do, it seems that science is on your side: the search for life outside Earth is turning up new discoveries almost daily. Let’s check out 3 major astronomy discoveries, and what makes them so important.

1. Water on small exoplanet
HAT-P-11b, a relatively small exoplanet (only 4 times the size of Earth) was reported to have water vapor. Astronomers were able to observe the water vapor because HAT-P-11b has clear skies while planets this small are usually cloudy.

2. Ancient water on Earth
Astronomists reported that half of all water on Earth is very old, older even than the sun. It was formed in the interstellar gas and dust clouds where stars are made. The rest of our water originated later when planets developed.

3. Organic molecules in a far away gas cloud
The complex organic compound isopropyl cyanide was discovered in a gas cloud 27,000 light-years away. The structure of this molecule comes closer to the structure of amino acids – the building blocks of life – than any previous finding in interstellar space.

What makes these discoveries important?
At present, we can only imagine extraterrestrial life as similar to life on Earth. So scientists search for features that are characteristic to life on Earth, such as water and complex organic molecules.Information about these features on Earth-like planets, or the early stages of the galaxy, allow us to estimate the chance that life exists on other planets.

Scientists – from physicists and astrobiologists to philosophers – will always look up to the stars, in hopes of a definite sign that we are not alone. And they seem to be making progress. What do you think, will we ever find that sign?

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