Mars has gas, and Curiosity finds organic matter — fuzzy signs of life?


o-MARS-facebook

(Click Image to Download)

It could be a sign, a vague one.

A NASA rover has found the building blocks of life on Mars. They might be the product of past or present life on the Red Planet — or they might not be.

Either way, the samples of organic matter in the atmosphere and in rock show that Mars may at least have once had conditions favorable to hosting life, NASA said in a statement. They also show that the planet is still chemically active.

The Curiosity rover’s tapping into organics in rock is the first find ever of life’s building blocks on Mars’ surface.

Gas blast

The rover has run into pockets of gas on Mars: methane, often used to fire up gas stoves back on Earth.

Organic matter is made up of carbon bonded with other elements, often hydrogen and oxygen. Living things are made up of it, but life is not necessary for it to exist.

Methane is the smallest organic compound, consisting of one carbon and four hydrogen atoms.

On our planet, methane is a fossil fuel, but it can also rise out of rotting sewage or fly through the air in flatulence.

In other words, it usually comes from something living, or something that was once alive.

No life found

That could be the case on Mars, too, NASA said in a statement this week.

But the space agency carefully points out that methane can also come from inanimate sources as well.

“There are many possible sources, biological or non-biological, such as interaction of water and rock,” said Sushil Atreya, a scientist on the Curiosity team.

At this point, NASA doesn’t know if microbes are behind the gas or just minerals.

Researchers used Curiosity’s instruments a dozen times to get a breath of methane, and four of those times, it peaked at a level 10 times higher than usual.

They believe it may have been puffed up from the ground like little burps.

Organic rock

Curiosity also found organic matter while drilling into stone.

“This first confirmation of organic carbon in a rock on Mars holds much promise,” said scientist Roger Summons, who works on the rover team.

Source : CNN

Cool gases ideal for star formation in galaxies


universe-wallpaper

Horsehead nebula (Click Image to Download)

Astronomers have discovered that a cool cosmic environment is ideal for the creation of new stars.

A surge of warm gas from a nearby galaxy – left over from the devouring of a separate galaxy – eliminates star formation by agitating the available chilled gas, the study says.

Astronomers wanted to understand why galaxies in the local universe fall into two major categories: younger, star-forming spirals (like our own Milky Way) and older ellipticals in which fresh star making has ceased.

The new study observed galaxy NGC 3226, which occupies a transitional middle ground so getting a lead on its star formation was critical.

“We have explored big data archives from NASA and European Space Agency’s space telescopes to pull together a picture of an elliptical galaxy that has undergone huge changes in its recent past due to violent collisions with its neighbours,” said Philip Appleton, project scientist for the NASA Herschel Science Center at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena.

These collisions are modifying the condition of the gas that resides in it, making it hard for the galaxy to form many stars, he added.

NGC 3226 is relatively close, just 50 million light-years away from Earth.

The data from the three telescopes finds that NGC 3226 has a very low rate of star formation.

It appears that in this case, the material falling into NGC 3226 is heating up as it collides with other galactic gas and dust, quenching star formation instead of fueling it.

As the warm gas flooding NGC 3226 cools to star-forming temperatures, the galaxy should get a second wind, the authors said.

The paper appeared on Astrophysical Journal.

Source : ZEE NEWS