Feeds

NASA: Extraterrestrial sample holds ingredient for alien life

Definitely not lab contamination, insist boffins

Top 5 reasons to deploy VMware with Tegile

NASA boffins say that they have identified an amino acid, one of the key building blocks of Earth-style life, in material recovered from a comet far out in space. They say this supports the idea that life may be commonly found throughout the universe, and that they have eliminated the chance that the cometary sample has been contaminated by Earthly life.

The sample in question was scooped from the comet Wild-2 in 2004 by the NASA space probe Stardust, which was launched a decade ago in 1999. Having made a close pass to the comet and picked up some of its substance, Stardust then dropped the sample capsule back to Earth in 2006. The main probe, remaining in space, is now to head out again to investigate the comet Tempel-1.

Meanwhile on Earth, boffins analysing the returned "aerogel" collectors soon discovered traces of glycine, an amino acid used by earthly life in building up proteins.

However, "it was possible that the glycine we found originated from handling or manufacture of the Stardust spacecraft itself," according to NASA's Dr Jamie Elsila. The scientists have since carried out isotopic analysis of the carbon in the sample, finding that it contains too much carbon-13 to be from Earth.

"We discovered that the Stardust-returned glycine has an extraterrestrial carbon isotope signature, indicating that it originated on the comet," says Elsila. In his view, this signifies that the basic chemicals from which life can arise may be commonly found beyond the solar system, suggesting that life would be more likely to arise on other worlds.

"The discovery of glycine in a comet supports the idea that the fundamental building blocks of life are prevalent in space, and strengthens the argument that life in the universe may be common rather than rare," says Dr Carl Pilcher, Director of the NASA Astrobiology Institute.

There's more from NASA here. ®

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

More from The Register

next story
Renewable energy 'simply WON'T WORK': Top Google engineers
Windmills, solar, tidal - all a 'false hope', say Stanford PhDs
The next big thing in medical science: POO TRANSPLANTS
Your brother's gonna die, kid, unless we can give him your, well ...
SEX BEAST SEALS may be egging each other on to ATTACK PENGUINS
Boffin: 'I think the behaviour is increasing in frequency'
NASA launches new climate model at SC14
75 days of supercomputing later ...
Bond villains lament as Wicked Lasers withdraw death ray
Want to arm that shark? Better get in there quick
Britain's HUMAN DNA-strewing Moon mission rakes in £200k
3 days, and Kickstarter moves lander 37% nearer takeoff
Simon's says quantum computing will work
Boffins blast algorithm with half a dozen qubits
LIFE, JIM? Comet probot lander found 'ORGANICS' on far-off iceball
That's it for God, then – if Comet 67P has got complex molecules
prev story

Whitepapers

Why and how to choose the right cloud vendor
The benefits of cloud-based storage in your processes. Eliminate onsite, disk-based backup and archiving in favor of cloud-based data protection.
A strategic approach to identity relationship management
ForgeRock commissioned Forrester to evaluate companies’ IAM practices and requirements when it comes to customer-facing scenarios versus employee-facing ones.
10 threats to successful enterprise endpoint backup
10 threats to a successful backup including issues with BYOD, slow backups and ineffective security.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Protecting against web application threats using SSL
SSL encryption can protect server‐to‐server communications, client devices, cloud resources, and other endpoints in order to help prevent the risk of data loss and losing customer trust.