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Space Science

First Organic Molecules Found on Alien World 146

Posted by Zonk
from the did-it-have-to-be-so-smelly dept.
Galactic_grub writes "The detection of planet HD 189733b is in some ways just another small victory for extra-solar planetary science. It is too hot for there to be anything 'alive'. Just the same, somewhere on the planet are trace amounts of the gas methane. The fact that the element was detected at all offers hope for understanding future discoveries of Earth-like worlds, says NewScientistSpace. Researchers from Caltech and University College London used the Hubble Space Telescope to peer at the planet and examined spectral signature of starlight filtered by the planet's atmosphere, to identify different chemicals. 'The authors suggest that some ill-understood chemical process might be responsible, either concentrating the methane in cooler parts of the atmosphere, or generating extra methane directly. Alternatively, the methane might simply mean that the planet happens to be very rich in carbon.'"
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First Organic Molecules Found on Alien World

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  • by elrous0 (869638) * on Tuesday February 12, 2008 @11:06AM (#22392150)
    One day I'm gonna bang me a green chick.
    • by radarsat1 (786772) on Tuesday February 12, 2008 @11:18AM (#22392298) Homepage
      With that kind of mouth, it'll certainly happen before "you bang you" an earth girl.
      • Earth girls only have one vagina. How lame is that?
        • by ari_j (90255)

          Earth girls only have one vagina. How lame is that?

          Anyone who has actually been with a woman knows that "exactly one" is the correct number of vaginas. Less than that and you end up only being able to have oral and anal sex, and of course those are in much lower supply compared to vaginal coitus so your overall sexual activity will decrease substantially. More than one is just too much work.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward
        "With that kind of mouth, it'll certainly happen before "you bang you" an earth girl."

        If you talked to your mom, you'd find out exactly how wrong you are.

        Son.
      • by syousef (465911)
        No with that kind of mouth the earth girl will be green

        http://tcm.health-info.org/Dermatology/Dermatology%20pages/Sexually%20Transmitted%20Disease.htm [health-info.org]
        "Trichomoniasis
        A common STD that affects both males and females.
        Females may encounter a frothy, yellow-green vaginal discharge with a strong odor. It also causes irritation and itching of the vaginal area."
    • by MBGMorden (803437) on Tuesday February 12, 2008 @11:18AM (#22392304)
      Aren't we all going to be pissed if we finally find the green chicks one day and they're only interested in jocks and weightlifters?
      • Green jocks and green weightlifters...
    • Re: (Score:1, Redundant)

      by imikem (767509)
      There's no need to wait. St. Patrick's Day is approaching.
  • sooo... (Score:3, Funny)

    by Freeside1 (1140901) on Tuesday February 12, 2008 @11:12AM (#22392224)
    methane... aliens can fart...?
  • by I'm a banana (1139431) on Tuesday February 12, 2008 @11:15AM (#22392268)

    The fact that the element was detected at all
  • by blcamp (211756) on Tuesday February 12, 2008 @11:17AM (#22392284) Homepage

    The fact that the element was detected at all
    There's certainly an element of misunderstanding here.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Jugalator (259273)

      There's certainly an element of misunderstanding here.
      Are you talking of me, Thane?!
    • Nevermind (Score:1, Redundant)

      by CarpetShark (865376)

      There's certainly an element of misunderstanding here.


      Some people just aren't in their element when it comes to elementary science. Perhaps they're confused by their background in elemental magic.
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by chemisus (920383)

      The fact that the element was detected at all
      There's certainly an element of misunderstanding here.


      What we have here is failure to compound.
    • Ohhh I see it. Silly slashdot title. "First Organic Elements Found on Alien World" Better? No?
      • by tompaulco (629533)
        That's not any better. It is not an alien world. It is a normal world. If we were to go there, WE would be aliens.
  • by TripMaster Monkey (862126) on Tuesday February 12, 2008 @11:18AM (#22392288)
    Methane can be formed by inorganic processes...although how enough of it could be formed to be detectable to us way over here is an intriguing question.

    Also, the planet is around 700 degrees Celsius...why are we so sure this completely precludes the possibility of life?

    • by fizze (610734) on Tuesday February 12, 2008 @11:30AM (#22392458)

      Also, the planet is around 700 degrees Celsius...why are we so sure this completely precludes the possibility of life?

      Actually, who knows what our planet may look like from a few lightyears afar in, say, a couple of hundred years?
      • This is your planet. This is your planet on global warming. Any questions?
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by mea37 (1201159)
      "Methane can be formed by inorganic processes"

      And even when that happens, it's still an organic molecule.

      "700 degrees Celsius...why are we so sure this completely precludes the possibility of life?"

      That may depend on how we define "life". In the sense that life could vary widely from what we know and understand, maybe you're right. Of cousre, if it's not a bit closer to "life as we know it" than that, then we don't know what to look for anyway. Would such life depend on water? Well, not liquid water. I
      • Would such life depend on water? Well, not liquid water. It wouldn't be made up of combustable carbon chains, either.

        Slightly tangential, but I never did understand why we primarily evaluated the life supporting capability of a planet based on whether water could be present. We might know tons about terrestrial life, but we know nothing about how life could begin in a different environment. Our earth-centric assumptions may not hold, even though the same laws of chemistry and physics do.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          We might know tons about terrestrial life, but we know nothing about how life could begin in a different environment.

          And that doesn't strike you as a reason "we" are looking for familiar signs? How would you interpret things as life if you don't know how it would work, what it would consume and what produce? We would need to be able to closely inspect the planet to tell if we found life. But if we find familiar conditions, where we know with a high probability that certain reactions won't happen "naturally

        • by gstoddart (321705) on Tuesday February 12, 2008 @02:18PM (#22394764) Homepage

          Slightly tangential, but I never did understand why we primarily evaluated the life supporting capability of a planet based on whether water could be present. We might know tons about terrestrial life, but we know nothing about how life could begin in a different environment.

          You've answered your own question with the second sentence.

          See, we don't know how to look for things we can't even fathom. If we look for places with liquid water, we know that "life as we know it" might exist there. All other statements are guess-work.

          Looking for forms of "life as we can't even fathom it" is sorta difficult --- you could look at anything, and you say "well, a form of life I can't conceive of might be there, but I have no test or measurement", which is meaningless. Basically, scientists are sticking to what they know and can make statements about, since anything else would be random conjecture and speculation, and have nothing to do with science.

          It's not that tough of a concept. Once we know about life forms we've never conceived of, we could expand our search for the conditions which those might thrive in. Until then, we just kinda assume that anything there would have to be a total long shot and beyond what we can know. Since it has no predictive value whatsoever, they ignore it completely.

          Cheers
        • by julesh (229690)
          Slightly tangential, but I never did understand why we primarily evaluated the life supporting capability of a planet based on whether water could be present.

          One reason is that liquid water is an amazing solvent, and there are few other simple substances that would be as likely to form a substrate for life to begin (at least in as far as we understand how such a process might occur).
          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by PCM2 (4486)
            Another reason is that water molecules are highly polar, which gives them a comparatively high boiling point compared to other, similar molecules. Hydrogen sulfide (H2S), for example, boils at -60 degrees Celsius. If we assume that primitive life would have an easier time getting on with the business of life within a liquid, rather than lying out in the open air, then the fact that water is still liquid at 90 degrees Celsius makes it a very useful medium.
            • by Nazlfrag (1035012)
              Unless, of course, the planet is a cool -60 C, or even a boiling 700 C. Water is right for us, but we shouldn't preclude alternate environs from our search for life.
              • by PCM2 (4486)
                True, but those temperatures preclude many organic chemical reactions being able to proceed at a manageable rate. Either the reactions won't happen at all or they will happen too quickly to arrive at the desired products. Again, we're talking about forms of life that we know about, but it seems unlikely that all of the basic building blocks that we know about would be absent in other forms of life. Temperature plays a very important role in the organic chemistry that we have observed thus far.
        • by aepervius (535155) on Tuesday February 12, 2008 @03:59PM (#22396098)
          We know tons about the enthalpy of formation of various chemicals, family of chemicals, not only from carbonated life but other type of chemicals. The problem is to have molecule which bond easily enough, quickly enough, but not strongly enough that you have to spend a lot of energy to break bonds. Furthermore there are good indication that a liquid phase of some sort is necessary. If I recall correctly from the first proposition one can deduce life would use carbonated compound, as other type of compound (Si for example) would either not bind strongly enough, or too strongly. From the second in conjunction of the first, water present all sort of advantage. It ain't that we are so earth centric that we can't imagine other form of life, it is more that the chemistry of other compound don't seem to lend to the type of reaction necessary for life. Finally if you have carbonated compound as condition sine qua non, then 700C is enough to dissociate most of them.

          Now, mind you, even if we have to abandon dreams of Silicate life in extrem hot environment, it does not mean we think life could be identical to what we have on earth.
        • by Quadraginta (902985) on Tuesday February 12, 2008 @05:08PM (#22397290)
          First, life as we know it is essentially a precarious delicate balance of chemical reactions that can go either way. For example, we need to break down the proteins we eat so that we can build up or own proteins. We need to create energy-rich substances (like fat) to store energy, so that later we can consume them to provide energy. We assemble DNA into chromosomes and then pack it away for safe storage, but then we need to partially disassemble it to use it. And so on.

          All this has to take place in essentially an isothermal environment. We can't change the temperature of a cell by several hundred degrees to get different reactions to go in different ways, or forward and back. We can't compartmentalize the cell and have different temperatures in different parts so that different reactions are favored.

          To get a set of chemical reactions that can be delicately balanced so that very small changes -- e.g. the addition or withholding of an enzyme (catalyst) -- can tip the balance this way and that, nothing is as useful as the hydrogen bond, which is a somewhat like a chemical bond in that it involves sharing a small charged particle between atoms, but in this case the particle is a proton instead of an electron. Since the proton is much larger than the electron, the bond is far weaker, typically. Helpfully, it can easily be broken and made at temperatures where water is a liquid by very small changes in the conditions. Indeed, they're made and broken in liquid water all the time.

          You might easily say that life is fundamentally based around the existence of the hydrogen bond, and its ability to be formed and broken easily at certain temperatures. There really isn't anything else like it in chemistry. You couldn't imagine ordinary chemical bonds playing this role at, say, a much higher temperature, because the problem is that all chemical bonds become flexible and easy to make and break at about the same temperature (5000-10000 K). You couldn't have some bonds flexible and some others sturdy. It would be like trying to pour and shape steel with iron tools close to the melting point of iron.

          Fortunately for us, because of the peculiar stability of the oxygen nucleus, there is a great deal of oxygen in the universe. Since there is also, naturally, a very large amount of hydrogen, it turns out that water (H2O) is probably the most common heteronuclear neutral molecule in the universe. There's a huge amount of it out there. And water is an ideal basic substrate on which to be building your life based on hydrogen bonds, because of course water is one of the best hydrogen-bonding substances there is. Think of it as the "silicon" in life "microelectronics," the substance that you can dope with other molecules and get all kinds of useful behavior.

          It might well be the case that there is some other model for life, one not based on ordinary chemistry -- for example you could have Robert L. Forward's life based on nuclear chemistry, living on neutron stars, with a natural time-scale a billion or more times faster than ours. But no one outside of fantasy has ever proposed a plausible model for it.
      • by inviolet (797804)

        [Life on this 'hot Jupiter' planet] wouldn't be made up of combustable carbon chains, either.

        Why not? As long as there is no oxygen around, they'd be fine. Indeed, there was no oxygen around for a lot of Earth's history either... Oxygen's arrival here was as a corrosive pollutant pumped into the atmosphere by short-sighted greedy industria^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^Hplants and microbes.

        • by RockDoctor (15477)

          [Life on this 'hot Jupiter' planet] wouldn't be made up of combustable carbon chains, either.

          Why not? As long as there is no oxygen around, they'd be fine. Indeed, there was no oxygen around for a lot of Earth's history either... Oxygen's arrival

          Be careful - you mean FREE oxygen, or ELEMENTAL oxygen, but you're not saying it. Oxygen is a vital part of the composition of most biologically active molecules, as is nitrogen, phosphorous, and to a lesser extent sulphur.

          here was as a corrosive pollutant pump

    • by esocid (946821)

      Methane can be formed by inorganic processes...although how enough of it could be formed to be detectable to us way over here is an intriguing question.

      Agree with you there, but if it is in a quantity enough to attribute to microbes in anaerobic conditions it would be interesting to see just what sort of microbes are living on that planet.

      Also, the planet is around 700 degrees Celsius...why are we so sure this completely precludes the possibility of life?

      Sulfur and hydrothermal vents in the ocean can sust

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by gurps_npc (621217)
        No one is an expert on that. That is one thing that pisses me off. We constantly have people saying moronic things like "Gas giants can't sustain life." We no so little about them, yet we have arrogant people saying things are impossible. The honest truth is that we have so little experience with conditions outside the planet that we can in NO way make statements about life in general. Pretty much every single statement about life made by a human being should really have an asterick saying "Life as we
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by thrawn_aj (1073100)

          Pretty much every single statement about life made by a human being should really have an asterick [sic] saying "Life as we know know it."

          That's rather redundant. You've fallen into the same semantic trap that most armchair philosophers do (I'm not calling you one, just saying). Our usage of ANY word for a concept automatically implies the concept "AS WE KNOW IT", and not "as all it could ever be". If and when life that operates on principles other than "as we know them" is discovered, we will then have to decide whether to expand the meaning of the word 'life' to include the new stuff or whether to come up with a new word for it. Do you see

        • by blueg3 (192743)
          No, they react in the partially-frozen water. The water component freezes, increasing the concentration of non-water molecules in the unfrozen water. Reaction rate depends both on concentration and temperature, and the increased concentration is more than enough to overcome the lower reaction rate due to temperature.
          • by treeves (963993)
            Not really. Since most reaction kinetics are linearly or squarely dependent on the concentration and Arrhenius-like dependent on temperature, and we're talking about a 100 or 200 K difference in temperature between the Earth and a Jupiter or Uranus-like planet, a reaction rate difference is dominated by the temperature difference.
            • by blueg3 (192743)
              The person was referring to recent findings that early biogenesis on Earth may have taken place in ice, since partially-frozen ice does exactly as I described. I did mention a water-ice mixture concentrating chemicals, which suggests temperatures in the regime of the freezing point of water, not 100-200K below average Earth temperature.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by cyclopropene (777291)

      Methane can be formed by inorganic processes...although how enough of it could be formed to be detectable to us way over here is an intriguing question.

      I think it's less a question of how enough of it could form--Titan in our own solar system has 1.6% methane in its atmosphere, and reasonable geochemical processes for the formation have been described by Sushil Atreya (see this article, [space.com] or here [elsevier.com] for the actual journal article, if you have access)--but rather why it can survive in a 700C atmosphere long enough to be observed. (or maybe that just means it's forming really f*cking fast?)

      FTA:

      "When the temperature is this high, the dominant form of carbon should be carbon monoxide, not methane,"

      But then they go on and say "Alternatively, the methane might simpl

    • Maybe they nuked it.
  • by Psiren (6145) on Tuesday February 12, 2008 @11:20AM (#22392324)
    Meh, I'm positive that the FSM put it there, to test our faith in his noodly appendages. Life on another planet?! Preposterous!
  • Please... (Score:5, Funny)

    by Joseph1337 (1146047) on Tuesday February 12, 2008 @11:22AM (#22392342)
    Please no more overlords, my back fucking hurts from the whip with those we got now...
  • Is that the next step after 2160p [wikipedia.org]?
  • Misleading (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Webs 101 (798265) on Tuesday February 12, 2008 @11:28AM (#22392434) Homepage

    The surprising thing here isn't that the astronomers discovered methane on a planet. Heck, Uranus is full of the stuff and other gas giants have it as well.

    It's not surprising to find methane on an extrasolar planet. What is different about this is, to QTFA:

    "Initially, that is surprising," says Sara Seager of MIT in Cambridge, US, who was not involved in the study. Because HD 189733b orbits very close to its parent star - just 10% of Mercury's distance from the Sun, it is very hot, with atmospheric temperatures of about 700 Celsius. "When the temperature is this high, the dominant form of carbon should be carbon monoxide, not methane," says Seager.

    • by kannibul (534777)
      I was thinking the same thing.

      Methane isn't exclusive to life. It CAN be a byproduct, but as with planets (and moons) in our own solar system, methane isn't exactly a rare substance.

      I was wondering what it would cost to build a ship to Uranus and transport a "really big" amount of Methane back here for use as fuel would cost...if it would be profitable given today's technology...

      I just don't want to hear "Sir, she's gone from suck to blow" if/when we do it - lol...
      • by rbanffy (584143)
        Burning our current carbon reserves is probably enough to get us all killed in a huge greenhouse. I would be completely against the idea unless we could make the excess carbon to be fixated in, say, more trees.

        Perhaps it could be shipped to the Moon or the asteroids to be used as fuel or propellant. I am not in a mood to calculate how good that would be.
        • Burning our current carbon reserves is probably enough to get us all killed in a huge greenhouse. I would be completely against the idea unless we could make the excess carbon to be fixated in, say, more trees

          Quite.

          The printing industry had better take note.

          Trees = paper.

          People carry around little electronic gadgets and think they are better informed, but if they would only carry around more books and papers too, where the real knowledge still is.

          Rather than only OLPC (one laptop per child) how about one se
          • by rbanffy (584143)
            But paper is not a bad thing by itself. It's carbon in the form of cellulose - it's not in the atmosphere contributing to the greenhouse effect and is much denser than CO2 or methane (at room temp).

            As long as you don't burn it or allow bacteria to decompose it, paper is a perfectly safe carbon sink that can even be turned into fuel if, someday, we need more greenhouse gases.
    • by aztektum (170569)

      Heck, Uranus is full of the stuff...
      *ba-dum tsch*

      Does this mean the only other intelligent life out there is cows?
    • by sgt scrub (869860)
      The surprising thing here isn't that the astronomers discovered methane on a planet. Heck, Uranus is full of the stuff and other gas giants have it as well.

      Was this a pun?
    • by mapkinase (958129)
      "...Alternatively, the methane might simply mean that the planet happens to be very rich in carbon, Seager says.

    • by Zymergy (803632) *
      Carbon Monoxide = CO
      Methane = CH4

      If there were lower amounts of Oxygen in the planet's atmosphere, possibly Methane might be the more dominant gaseous compound of Carbon?
    • by jddj (1085169)

      The surprising thing here isn't that the astronomers discovered methane on a planet. Heck, Uranus is full of the stuff and other gas giants have it as well.

      [insert joke here]

  • This is a huge step and an advancement towards detecting alien life.
    What we consider as hot may be normal if beings exist on that planet.
    Yes, just like the 1970s Mars experiments led to inconclusive evidence of life on Mars, this too is inconclusive.
    If this doesn't speed up Astronomy studies in Europe (USA is a basket case since Bush came to power), then what else will?

    As usual this doesn't make front page news anywhere.
    Fox starts with a pleasant "Pregnant women as bombers" fear mongering: http://www.foxnew [foxnews.com]
    • by ScentCone (795499)
      As usual this doesn't make front page news anywhere

      Gee, maybe because we've seen methane on other planets in our own solar system, and this discovery - while interesting - doesn't even begin to point, specifically, to life elsewhere just yet?

      Fox starts with a pleasant "Pregnant women as bombers" fear mongering

      Well, let's see. As I write this, the BBC web site is talking about a Russia/Ukraine gas deal, Danish cartoon plotters, and the US election primaries. No mention of alien methane. CNN? Mexican
    • by mozkill (58658)
      i find it interesting that there are 2 anti-gun articles on the front page area of fox news today. you would think that they, of all the news sites, might not report stuff like that , but they are.
  • by matt me (850665)
    TFA doesn't describe methane as element. I for one welcome our new earth, wind, fire and water overlords. Anyway. Titan has methane. We know this.
  • Congratulations for finally emerging from beneath the shadow of that glory hogging planet HD 189733a!!
  • by slapout (93640) on Tuesday February 12, 2008 @12:13PM (#22393058)
    "trace amounts of the gas methane" != "First Organic Molecules Found"
    • by Alioth (221270) <no@spam> on Tuesday February 12, 2008 @12:46PM (#22393502) Journal
      Yes it does. Methane is an organic molecule. If you find methane, you've found an organic molecule. Organic chemistry is not necessarily produced by life forms.

      That group of compounds (things like methane, ethane, propane, butane etc.) are all part of organic chemistry, and whether you find them with or without life they are still organic chemistry.
      • by bcattwoo (737354)
        But these aren't the first.
  • Drake Equation (Score:3, Interesting)

    by rijrunner (263757) on Tuesday February 12, 2008 @12:19PM (#22393120)
    N = ( R* x fp x ne x fl x fi x fc) x L

    R* = The number of stars born each year.
    fp = the fraction of those stars which have a planetary system.
    ne = the number of "earth-like" planets in a solar system.
    fl = the fraction of these planets on which life arises.
    fi = the fraction of these life forms that evolve into intelligent civilisations like ours.
    fc = the fraction of these civilisations that choose to attempt to communicate across the Galaxy.
    L = the average time they have been trying to communicate.

    The range of life forms found on Earth in extreme conditions have pushed the "ne" category into much higher ranges. You could make an argument for a lot bodies within our own solar system that have conditions less extreme than those found on Earth where life exists. We have found life in volcanic vents. We have found them in extreme cold areas. All of which really pushes "ne" closer to 1.0. And, solar systems seem to be more the rule than the exception.

    Whether this planet can support life as we know it is a different proposition than what it means overall. The Drake Equation is getting pretty close to 1.0 in a lot of categories.
     
    • The problem that may occur with your argument is exactly what conditions are needed to formulate and develop life. I can see life evolving somehow to exist in those conditions, but can it begin there? I know that conditions were theoretically extreme on earth, but some parts seem a little iffy...
    • Maybe they'd communicate by farting and think we're answering them?

      Seriously though,there is a missing factor
      fd = fraction of those civilisations communicating in a way that we can detect.

      We've been in existence for some 100s of thousands of years, maybe millios of years and we've only had proper radio comms for 60 or so years - a small fraction of that. Its pretty arrogant to think that they'd use radio because that's the best technology we have. If other beings have SETI programs, perhaps they're using

    • Re:Drake Equation (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Shotgun (30919) on Tuesday February 12, 2008 @04:34PM (#22396628)
      The Drake Equation is getting pretty close to 1.0 in a lot of categories.

      Dude! That's funny.

      R* = We have some guesses from a few years of observation, but nothing approaching mathematical certainty.
      fp = We just recently learned how to find planets, and the number found is extremely low compared to the number of stars found. It would be silly to try to assert with any certainty what percentage of stars have planets.
      ne = Other than Earth, none have been found. No indication that any other will be found has been found. Nearly everything found so far have been gas giants orbiting close to their suns.
      fl = Other than Earth, none have been found. No indication that any other will be found has been found.
      fi = Other than Earth, none have been found. No indication that any other will be found has been found.
      fc = Other than Earth, none have been found. No indication that any other will be found has been found.
      L = Other than Earth, none have been found. No indication that any other will be found has been found.

      If anything, the Drake equation is still sitting imperceptibly close to 0.
      • by rijrunner (263757)
        You're misreading what ne is. It is not Earth. It is not defined as rocky planet with X amount of sunlight. It is "Conditions comparable to places where life has been found on Earth". Take the range of life supporting environments on Earth and apply them to planets and bodies we know about and you get a much wider range. Just in our solar system alone, we have 3 planets with less extreme environments than where we have discovered life existing on Earth and we have found a couple Moons with less extreme cond
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Tejin (818001)
      Even if the numbers get close to 1, we still have the Fermi Paradox. If this equation starts to say that life should be everywhere, yet we can't find any, should we question the usefulness of the equation?
  • Good god I hope they'll find life on this planet. Not that I'm really that desparate about alien life but because people would NEVER stop confusing the famous astrologer "Mark Swain" with that other guy.
  • Methane is not only a byproduct of organic chemical reactions. But if you really want to see the thriving extraterrestial life yo have to check the Sulphiric Acid deposits. Only there you will find a plethora of life, microscopic of course, but it could be the most amazing sight you could see!
  • We are finding so many of these huge planets in close orbit to star, could our system have had one that was gobbled up by the sun? Could the process of gobbling up a planet cause a mass extinction on earth? Maybe the premian extinction was caused when our sun gobbled up a Hot Jupiter?

  • Carbon? Feh (Score:4, Funny)

    by ErikZ (55491) * on Tuesday February 12, 2008 @02:15PM (#22394704)
    Alternatively, the methane might simply mean that the planet happens to be very rich in carbon.

    Most likely it's because of cows. Space cows.

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