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December 3rd, 2007


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03:29 pm - A wondrous & living universe
Thanks to james_nicoll for the following link:
Scientists analysing data gathered by the Cassini spacecraft have confirmed the presence of heavy negative ions in the upper regions of Titan’s atmosphere. These particles may act as organic building blocks for even more complicated molecules and their discovery was completely unexpected because of the chemical composition of the atmosphere (which lacks oxygen and mainly consists of nitrogen and methane). The observation has now been verified on 16 different encounters and findings will be published in Geophysical Research Letters on November 28.

Professor Andrew Coates, researcher at UCL’s Mullard Space Science Laboratory and lead author of the paper, says: “Cassini’s electron spectrometer has enabled us to detect negative ions which have 10,000 times the mass of hydrogen. Additional rings of carbon can build up on these ions, forming molecules called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, which may act as a basis for the earliest forms of life.
So, there are complex organic molecules in interstellar dust clouds, even larger and more complex molecules in the atmosphere of Titan, and a moderate amount of (at least suggestive) evidence the Mars once had life. I'm also fairly certain that if there is an actual ocean underneath the surface of Europa (as opposed to pockets of slush), I'm fairly certain that life will be present there. We live in an abundant universe, planets, including terrestrial planets, which the latest evidence shows are likely quite common. Beyond the magic (both metaphorical and not) inherent in all the universe, I see nothing particularly unlikely or divine about life. Its absolutely wonderful, but I'm fairly certain it's in no way rare. Actually visiting (or even sending probes to) worlds around distant stars looks to be exceptionally difficult, but soon we should be able to see other planets with life as abundant as our own, and that alone is a wonder and a joy.
Current Mood: impressedimpressed

(4 comments | Leave a comment)

Comments:


[User Picture]
From:queen_in_autumn
Date:December 4th, 2007 01:33 am (UTC)
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There are few things that excite and inspire me like the contemplating the vastness of the universe and my belief that there has to be life in countless places besides Earth.
[User Picture]
From:dancinglights
Date:December 4th, 2007 01:48 pm (UTC)
(Link)
squee.

(I'm not terribly good at being articulate about my excitement over this kind of thing. This may prove socially awkward at work.)
[User Picture]
From:rjgrady
Date:December 4th, 2007 01:53 pm (UTC)
(Link)
don't have anything further to add beyond, "Yay, life!"

[User Picture]
From:silvaerina_tael
Date:December 5th, 2007 12:03 am (UTC)
(Link)
This is phenomenal news. I have known for a while that there were molecules as complex as formaldehyde in space, but this information on Titan is really interesting. And like you, I'm also of the opinion that there is no rarity of life in the universe.

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