NASA: Extraterrestrial sample holds ingredient for alien life
Definitely not lab contamination, insist boffins
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.
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No one has contacted us != no other life.
lol, the universe is roughly 16 billion years old as the sciencetists say, the solar system is roughly 5 billion years old, before life appeared, so it is almost certain that there are other places with life in the universe, considering the amount of stars present is a number so large that no one can comprehend it.
Why has no extraterrestial life has not contacted us, well any ET with sufficent technological knowledge to traverse interstella distances, would consider us like the europeans considered the Aboriginals in Australia, or the Indians in Amerika, simple savages. With our violent natures, and desire to take that which is not ours (wars over territory etc), are we even worth contacting, would we even recognise an attempt to communicate ?
One can assume that someone who can traverse interstella distances within reasonable time, would also have a communications form that we could not conceive (FTL communications, and FTL travel), since both technologies are unknown on earth, we would not even detect the transmissions even if we were to live in the equivilant of New Your City (in galactial terms)
Another reason why we have not been contacted, is that earth has shown an average of 65 million years between extinction events, perhaps no civilisation has ever survived long enough to be able to travel between the stars, perhaps it isn't even possible to travel such distances, without using millions of years in transit. Imagine to find a power source necesssary to supply the power for lifesupport, or even the degree of efficiency that recycling systems would have to provide for a trip lasting millions of years.
Additionally signals transmitted over interstella distances, are likely to be so weak, that they are buried in the background noise, and as we don't even know what happens between the stars, i.e. is even possible for a ordinary radio signal to remain coherent through interstella space ?
However, I find it interesting that they are finding organic molecules in inhospitable areas like comets, as it does indicate that the building blocks (that we know of) exist in abundance, thus would mean that it is likely that any star with plantes may have some form of carbon based life).
Does anyone ever stop to consider for a moment that we might not even recognise life if we fell over it, for instance, the electrical activity within even the earth, could actually mean that in some sense the Earth or even stars could be alive, and aware, but has a metabolic and communication rate, of millions of years, thus it seems stationary, and inert to our brief flicker lives ?
Any updates to the components of the Drake equation then?