Mar 20, 2008

Life Forming Gas found on Distant Planet

Scientists has discovered a possible 'Sign of Life' on a Distant Planet! Wait! It is not actually a sign of life, but methane, a carbon-containing compound that can play a key role in life formation.

The organic compound methane was found in the atmosphere of a Jupiter-sized planet known as HD 189733, borbiting a star some 63 light years away. Methane, made up of carbon and hydrogen, is the simplest possible organic compound and under certain circumstances, it can play a key role in the chemical reactions necessary to form life. This is for the first time a organic compound has been detected on a planet outside our Solar System.

Dr Giovanna Tinetti from University College, London, and co-authors Mark Swain and Gautam Vasisht, from Nasa's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, found the signature of methane in the planet's atmosphere using the Hubble Space Telescope. The researchers also confirmed a previous discovery - made by Nasa's Spitzer Space Telescope - that the atmosphere of planet HD 189733b contains water vapour.

Scientists thinks that the discovery, unveiled in the journal Nature, is an important step towards exploring new worlds. In HD 189733b, temperatures reach 900 degrees C, about the melting point of silver. So, scientists says that the planet is far too hot to support life formation.

Dr Giovanna Tinetti said: "The methane here, although we can call it an organic constituent, is not produced by life - it is way too hot there for life." Link


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