Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Space Science

Herschel Space Observatory Finds Precursors of Life In Orion 142

Posted by kdawson
from the but-not-as-we-know-it dept.
ogre7299 recommends an announcement out of Caltech on a milestone for HIFI, the Herschel Space Observatory's Heterodyne Instrument for the Far Infrared. "The Herschel Space Observatory has revealed the chemical fingerprints of potential life-enabling organic molecules in the Orion Nebula, a nearby stellar nursery in our Milky Way galaxy. ... This detailed-spectrum, obtained with the Heterodyne Instrument for the Far Infrared (HIFI) — one of Herschel's three innovative instruments — demonstrates the gold mine of information that Herschel-HIFI will provide on how organic molecules form in space. The spectrum, one of the first to be obtained with HIFI since it returned to full health in January 2010 following technical difficulties, clearly demonstrates that the instrument is working well. ... [The HIFI instrument had previously been offline since] August 2009 when HIFI experienced an unexpected voltage spike in the electronic system, probably caused by a high-energy cosmic particle, resulting in the instrument shutting down. On 14 January 2010, HIFI was successfully switched back on using its spare electronics, with science observations commencing on 28 February."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Herschel Space Observatory Finds Precursors of Life In Orion

Comments Filter:
  • Nuke it! (Score:3, Funny)

    by Colin Smith (2679) on Sunday March 07, 2010 @03:26PM (#31392722)

    It's the only way to be sure!

     

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Jeremy Erwin (2054)

      The orion nebula is (very) roughly spherical, with a radius of 12 ly. It's about 1344ly away. Developing the technology to deliver millions of nukes across hundreds of parsecs might well be the sort of stimulus are planet needs to crawl out of this recession.

      • Re:Nuke it! (Score:5, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward on Sunday March 07, 2010 @04:01PM (#31393062)

        pedant:
        are = The second-person singular and plural forms of the verb "to be",
        our = Our is the possessive determiner of the personal pronoun "we".
        Rrr = What a pirate or old sea captain says.

        • Hmm. Perhaps, I should of used the preview function.

  • by pcjunky (517872) <walterp@cyberstreet.com> on Sunday March 07, 2010 @03:26PM (#31392732) Homepage

    Can pigs be far behind

    • My dad was out driving in country Western Australia once where the roads are seriously straight, remote and flat. He passes this line across the road. One kilometre ahead there is a second line with a sign, something like police aircraft speed detection.

      Some smartarse had updated the sign by appending "pigs in space".

  • by Anonymous Coward

    "The spectrum [...] clearly demonstrates that the instrument is working well."

    Yep, we got a result that's good for some headlines, so clearly the system is working well! Otherwise, we'd have had to conclude it's still not working.

    • by TheKidWho (705796)

      Oh no! They make headlines with the device! It's obviously corrupted and not pure Science!

      • Not Science? Not Science???

        I'm doing a series of papers on the Procedural Generation of Headlines in Science Journals, you insensitive clod!

    • Yep, we got a result that's good for some headlines, so clearly the system is working well!

      The "Headline of the month club"?
      That's one giant leap below the "Publication of the month club". Less effort, too.

  • God isn't dead, he just moved to Orion!

    M.

  • So, what next? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Darkness404 (1287218)
    Ok, so lets say we do find life even as advanced as, say, rats. What do we do with that information? Especially if its so far out that we can't possibly make it to that planet?
    • Re:So, what next? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by TheKidWho (705796) on Sunday March 07, 2010 @03:35PM (#31392812)

      We send a probe? We rejoice in the fact that there is life outside of Earth, that there is strong possibility we are not the only intelligent life in this Universe?

      Also prepare for our new overlords.

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by thms (1339227)

        We send a probe?

        ... which we don't sterilize properly or which picks up life earth has scattered around the solar system. Then this type of life, which has a hundreds of millions of years head start, kills all the native life. But that might explain the Star Trek nose-ridge aliens.

        I would really want to leave another planet with no interesting life alone so see what other molecular bases support life.

        • Re:So, what next? (Score:4, Insightful)

          by TheKidWho (705796) on Sunday March 07, 2010 @04:20PM (#31393224)

          Who ever said the probe had to land on the planet?

          • Yeah, more likely NASA will get their feet and meters mixed up again and the probe will spectacularly crash on the planet.
            In the process of crashing it will probably also wipe out a budding otter civilization.

          • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

            by migla (1099771)

            Do you know something we don't know about advances in beam-up technology? Of course the probe has to land to get access to the butts to be probed. And butts need probing. Aliens always do that. And in this case, the aliens are us!

            • by TheKidWho (705796)

              You're a rather silly person to assume they have a "butt."

              • by Thing 1 (178996)
                It seems you're the silly one, for assuming that any form of life wouldn't have an input and output port. Ports need probing!
              • You're a rather silly person to assume they have a "butt."

                So what you are saying, is that 'thing' that happend to me all those years ago was just the alien's way of shaking hands?

      • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        We send a large fleet of Death-Stars armed with Stellar-Converters to exterminate those Antareans,

      • by martas (1439879)
        or, if there are rats, then it's a potential location for acquiring emergency nutrition supplies in case a space trip goes awry...
    • Celebrate! (Score:3, Insightful)

      by bsharma (577257)
      Why rats? we should celebrate it as among the greatest discoveries if we can even confirm something as primitive as a worm. Evolutionarily, the jump from inorganic to a worm is far bigger jump than from a worm to (even an intelligent) man.
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by bsharma (577257)
        Can evidence of even primitive life in galaxies so far away that they may not even exist now disprove all geocentric religions? (e.g. the Abrahamic faiths)
        • by Nadaka (224565)

          No. That is the great thing about faith, it can not be proven wrong. Evidence will be ignored by certain groups, some more than others, we still have flat earthers, people who claim that cell phones make them ill and vegans. I could claim 1 + 1 != 2 all day long and still believe it even if you whip out page 379 of Principia Mathematica.

          • Arggggggggggggg the Principia Mathematica. Why did you mention that on a Sunday? I was trying to forget about Russell.

          • by smaddox (928261)

            Can you show me the page in Principia Mathematica where it proves the assumed axioms? It seems you have to start with something to get something.

            Scientists and Mathematicians aren't immune to blind faith.

            • by Nadaka (224565)

              Not off the top of my head, I believe they at least define addition. But its not exactly what I would call light reading.

              • Might I recommend "Mathematics Made Difficult" by Carl Linderholm. May be out of print. But if you get past chapter 2 you'll never be comfortable about counting again.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by vlm (69642)

          Can evidence of even primitive life in galaxies so far away that they may not even exist now disprove all geocentric religions?

          Probably about as well as the existence of native americans wiped out Christianity in 1492. Err, that's not quite how it turned out.

          Considering how televangelists and shortwave broadcasters like to spend money, to blast people whom aren't interested with religious indoctrination, I'd suggest buying stock in companies that manufacture large satellite dishes and high power transmitters. Also expect at attempt at missionary activity (and by missionary activity, I'm not talking about the position).

          Of course t

          • by TheKidWho (705796)

            Don't forget your own arrogance in assuming the Aliens do not believe in Gods or have their own religions.

            • by zappepcs (820751)

              I don't think that was arrogance. I think he simply assumed they would be smarter than humans.

              • by Skidborg (1585365)
                So far they've discovered chemicals that may or may not be somewhat similar to organic compounds. So unless you're really worried that the dirt under your feet believes in a supreme deity, you probably don't have to worry about these aliens believing in one either.
        • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward

          Can evidence of even primitive life in galaxies so far away that they may not even exist now disprove all geocentric religions? (e.g. the Abrahamic faiths)

          I frequently see people raise concerns like this. What I don't understand about it is simple: nowhere does the Bible (including the Pentateuch) say "Earth is the one and only place where God created life and there are no aliens of any sort". Or if it says that, I certainly cannot find it and have never received a reference for where it may be found. If it did say that, then I would understand the concerns about extraterrestrial life and the damage it might cause for various religions. So far as I can t

          • nowhere does the Bible (including the Pentateuch) say "Earth is the one and only place where God created life and there are no aliens of any sort". Or if it says that, I certainly cannot find it and have never received a reference for where it may be found. If it did say that, then I would understand the concerns about extraterrestrial life and the damage it might cause for various religions.

            http://www.roseavenue.org/Who%20we%20are/what%20we%20believe/Bible/complete%20and%20perfect.htm [roseavenue.org]

            The Bible is "perfect

            • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

              by Anonymous Coward

              nowhere does the Bible (including the Pentateuch) say "Earth is the one and only place where God created life and there are no aliens of any sort". Or if it says that, I certainly cannot find it and have never received a reference for where it may be found. If it did say that, then I would understand the concerns about extraterrestrial life and the damage it might cause for various religions.

              http://www.roseavenue.org/Who%20we%20are/what%20we%20believe/Bible/complete%20and%20perfect.htm [roseavenue.org]

              The Bible is "perfect and complete". If the Bible didn't mention it, it didn't happen.

              The way I have always understood that, is that for a Christian, the Bible is "everything you need to know" and it is not "everything that could possibly be known." This is obvious, as the Bible does not mention the transistor, the internal combustion engine, integrated circuits, rock music, rap music, or many other things we now know of. In the sense that it's "everything you need to know" (i.e. to be a Christian) it is indeed perfect and complete. This neither affirms nor denies the existence of extrate

          • Re:Celebrate! (Score:5, Interesting)

            by Ogi_UnixNut (916982) on Sunday March 07, 2010 @04:41PM (#31393424) Homepage

            The American Breed of Christian is something totally nuts. I'm a Christian, and I can tell you some of those religious Americans I've met scare me. Truly something else, really *really* narrow-minded, extreme fundamentalist and take the bible literally (WTF?).

            I never understood the vitrol some people on /. show towards religion, until I met some of their Christians. It explained a lot, very irritating people, kept shoving god into every discussion or action.

            Note: I'm sure there are very many normal Christians there too, just that a minority really really give the rest a bad name (I hope to god they are a minority).

            And what's with tele-evangelism? It's like they turned religion into some sort of pay-for entertainment. I didn't get it at all.

            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by MichaelSmith (789609)

              But isn't that because the US was originally founded by European Christians who believed that they were more serious about their religion than their peers?

              • But isn't that because the US was originally founded by European Christians who believed that they were more serious about their religion than their peers?

                Some of the earliest settlers (colonist period) perhaps but how many of the total number of migrants were puritans as opposed to economic migrants ? When you look at the early US history the attitude towards religion seems to be very enlightened. The current insanity to me seems to coincide with the latter stages of the american imperialist period (post-JFK) and it has been written into the official mythology and rites of power.

            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by MartinSchou (1360093)

              And what's with tele-evangelism? It's like they turned religion into some sort of pay-for entertainment.

              You answered the question yourself, I've just emphasized the relevant bit.

            • by steelfood (895457)

              Note: I'm sure there are very many normal Christians there too, just that a minority really really give the rest a bad name (I hope to god they are a minority).

              You are wrong. Most Republicans receive the majority of their support from these people. Democrats also receive their support, but to a lesser extent. That there are so many Republicans in government says that at least half the population is like this. Half is not a minority.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Kjella (173770)

          Can evidence of even primitive life in galaxies so far away that they may not even exist now disprove all geocentric religions? (e.g. the Abrahamic faiths)

          Not any more than evolution has managed to disprove the same religions, I'd wager. Oh there might be life elsewhere, but only man is created directly by God in his image and had Jesus Christ die for our sins. That's the true arrogance in those religions, not whether there's some überpowerful guy who runs the universe but that we humans are so important to him. If we were 7 billion whiny ants to him, God would still be God but religion wouldn't have nearly the same appeal.

        • by dintech (998802)

          Can evidence of even primitive life in galaxies so far away that they may not even exist now disprove all geocentric religions?

          It depends how far, far away they are...

    • by mhajicek (1582795)
      We thumb our noses at the creationists.
    • I like the idea of space herring for a couple of reasons. It would lend credence to the poem 'Wynken, Blynken and Nod' which mom read to me as a child and it would give the Discovery Channel something to look forward to other than another case of crabs.

    • by Greyfox (87712)
      Isn't it obvious? We figure out how to get over there, go there and deliver lots and lots of anal probes!
    • by DustoneGT (969310)
      Depends...did the spectrometer find any signs of unobtainium? If it did, we form a quasi-governmental corporate entity to kill the rats and harvest the minerals.
    • Re:So, what next? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by johno.ie (102073) on Sunday March 07, 2010 @05:28PM (#31393832)

      If you want to rank life forms according to some arbitrary scale from most to least advanced, you'll find that rats are just as advanced as humans. Their body chemistry is almost identical to ours, they exhibit high intelligence and ability to solve problems. They outnumber humans worldwide, and their high reproductive rate allows them to evolve much faster than us, they probably go through 100 generations for each human generation.

      • Humans kill rats at will... if we really wanted to we could wipe them out, its just a matter of them being good at hiding and your average human having other things to worry about or not caring that much. I would say that ability (although hypothetical, try imagining rats wiping humans out on purpose...) makes humans more advanced.

        • by Lotana (842533)

          Well maybe rats is not a good example.

          Now think about ants. Good luck wiping those out!

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Ok, so lets say we do find life even as advanced as, say, rats. What do we do with that information? Especially if its so far out that we can't possibly make it to that planet?

      We reduce our ignorance as a species. You see, science is about discovering the truths of the universe, regardless of whether or not certain truths are applicable to profitable business plans.

    • by Xone47 (57666)

      Great point. We should probably stop any and all science that doesn't have direct, actionable results. Like stop sending robots to the bottom of the ocean. It's not like we'll ever move down there...

    • by Skidborg (1585365)
      Let's wait until we find such a thing, shall we? Amino acids and oxygen do not a galactic civilization make. I don't see anywhere in the article that they even mention what kind of "organics" they found though.
  • Everyone knows there isn't a galaxy on Orion's belt!

  • by moteyalpha (1228680) on Sunday March 07, 2010 @03:52PM (#31392976) Homepage Journal
    I don't know if they have thought of this, but it seems that what is not seen has more meaning than what is seen. If I had the data, I would look to see if the absorption spectrum was different at the primary frequency of the solar emissions and would indicate to me that life was present. I would assume that inorganic materials would have an absorption spectrum which was different from organic life as it uses this energy to manufacture itself. It would seem that this would be generally true in the overall spectrum of the universe and like the cosmic background measurements there should be a signature of the universe without life and one that indicates life. Just a thought.
    • Sounds extremely oversimplified to me... I don‘t think that organic material necessarily has a different spectrum.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by nashv (1479253)

      Umm, no.

      1. You are assuming that all life works in the same way, that it will be based directly on absorption of solar energy.

      2. Even if it was happening as such, the amount of light absorbed by life in any part of the spectrum represents an unbelievably small fraction of the total solar output. On Earth, the total radiations received is ~1% of total solar output. And of course, plants use a fraction of that energy. To detect this over cosmic scales, you would need an instrument with sensitivity that is

      • Very interesting and certainly an intelligent and considered reply. I recently finished graduate biochemistry, bioinformatics and cloning lab. As a programmer by trade, it would seem to me that if you capture samples from the universe in all spectra for 50 years that it makes a pile of data that becomes more able to discriminate any deviation from the norm.
        I have done infrared spectroscopy so I understand what you are saying about the ability to identify specific bond types or umbrella scattering. I am al
    • by wasmoke (1055116)
      You seem to have the wrong idea about what has been found. They have not found *life* in space but organic molecules commonly referred to as the "building blocks of life." This really is not a new development- we've found I want to say 92 (don't quote me on that number) amino acids in the middle of chondritic meteorites. To get life you essentially need to stick a bunch of these precursors in a bag (we use lipids on Earth) and get them to metabolize and replicate.
  • OK so their instrument had an upset. That sort of thing happens in space. Why did it take them 5 months to switch over to the redundant string?
    • by mrsquid0 (1335303)

      To make sure that switching over would not cause problems of its own. One does not make changes to spacecraft operations lightly.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by laing (303349)
        OK, maybe you are involved in the mission and know more than I. What I do know is that all spacecraft have an expected mission life (anywhere from a few months to 15 years depending upon the mission). Generally when an anomaly occurs there is a balancing act between understanding what went wrong and getting things going again quickly.

        Five months is an awfully long time to spend scratching your head if you've got a redundant string ready to be switched on.

        • by nashv (1479253)
          There isn't exactly a deadline on finding the signature of life in the Universe. Sure , it would be cool....but if the star/nebula I am looking at has a life of millions of years, I'd rather wait 5 months and be sure the instrument is fine, rather than flick it on to have a series of other mishaps because 50 other components had begun to malfunction.
        • Because unless you know what fried the primary controller, there's a good chance you'll just fry the back up controller too when turning it on.
        • by salmacis2 (643788)
          HIFI is only one of three instruments on board. PACS and SPIRE were able to take up the slack while HIFI was off. When HIFI was switched on again, they caught up using the time that had previously been allocated to PACS and SPIRE.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by ogre7299 (229737)

      OK so their instrument had an upset. That sort of thing happens in space. Why did it take them 5 months to switch over to the redundant string?

      It took them 5 months to switch over to the redundant system because they wanted to be sure that they fully understood what happened with the first failure. The problem was that there wasn't software protection for the critical systems.
      They then had to put preventative measures in place to ensure that it didn't happen to the redundant system; otherwise they would be screwed. The HIFI instrument has some of the most discovery potential and its capabilities cannot be duplicated from earth or and only partly w

      • by laing (303349)
        Thanks! That's a reasonable explanation. The post (and the linked content) did not describe the anomaly in detail. Generally an SEU is a recoverable event. Apparently this one caused actual hardware damage to the primary string. I'm glad that they were able to figure out a solution and make this amazing observation in Orion.
    • by uburoy (1118383)
      It is a very complex instrument. And a cosmic is not the first hypothesis in these case. It was very hard to find out the cause of the issue. And they could not risk switching to backup without knowing for sure it would not fail as the first one, and loose the instrument for good. It is not like you can go out there and repair it by trial and errors.
  • The Dogon already knew of the existance of life in Orion centuries ago... http://www.unmuseum.org/siriusb.htm [unmuseum.org]
    • by julesh (229690)

      The Dogon already knew of the existance of life in Orion centuries ago

      Unfortunately (for it is a rather cool story) there is convincing evidence that it was cultural contamination (see Walter E. A. van Beek: "Dogon Restudied: A Field Evaluation of the Work of Marcel Griaule." Current Anthropology, 32 (1991): 139-167).

  • by 93 Escort Wagon (326346) on Sunday March 07, 2010 @05:12PM (#31393694)

    Are they green, and if so - are they female?

  • by RevWaldo (1186281) on Sunday March 07, 2010 @05:21PM (#31393766)
    I've seen things you people wouldn't believe. Precursors of life off the shoulder of Orion. I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhauser gate. All those moments will be lost in time... like tears in rain... Time to die.
    - Herschel Space Observatory's last transmission before deorbiting, November 2019
  • "But it wouldn't be life as we know it, Jim."
  • A story about possible life in Orion and not a single comment about green slave women? What is wrong with you people?

    Now, get off my lawn.

  • We need to immediately send diplomatic representation to these little space guys.
    I was thinking maybe ...
    1. Bill Clinton (Head of delegation)
    2. Britney Spears (Cultural attache)
    3. MPAA, RIAA (IP attaches. If these aliens has been monitoring our radio/TV signals they have done so without paying the "artists" what they are owed, they are pirates!!!! I see a new ACTA discussion participant on the horizon. This in combination with that we really really don't want them on planet earth.)
    • Sounds good, but I'll recommend Sarah Palin in place of Bill Clinton. I think she uh, connects with people better, yeah. And this all sounds too America-centric, I think Mahmoud Ahmadinejad should go along too, you know, for diversity.

      Then they can all go in a "flawed" landing craft that burns up in the alien atmosphere in a "tragic" "accident." >:)

  • Why is astronomy layman reporting (and global warming, and meteor science) all about the extreme case? Only so many characters in the headline field? Too much character in the headline writer? Thing is you're wearing out the reader - in a few more generations the only way for this story to get noticed will be "Aliens From Orion On Their Way To Eat You".

    • Thing is you're wearing out the reader - in a few more generations the only way for this story to get noticed will be "Aliens From Orion On Their Way To Eat You".

      It looks like The Register is just ahead of the curve then.

  • Not news, we all know that Ford came from a small planet somewhere in the vicinity of Betelgeuse, and not Guildford after all.
  • I hope they find Life soon
    It would be a bummer if Planet earth was on a list for demolition and since planet earth hasn't so far found life we haven't found out that our planet was scheduled for demolition.
    and they say your planet has been scheaduled for demoliton you (planet earth) have not replyed there for your planet will be destroyed for an interglatic teleportation byway

  • Organic Molecules (Score:5, Informative)

    by physburn (1095481) on Sunday March 07, 2010 @10:13PM (#31396394) Homepage Journal
    Its not exactly new that organic molecules and precursors of life exist in the Orion Nebula. Radio telescopes have found them since the sixties, and the Orion Nebula is an especially easy place to detect such compounds. Still the Herschel satalite, can view Nebula in unpresidented detail.

    ---

    Radio Astronomy [feeddistiller.com] Feed @ Feed Distiller [feeddistiller.com]

  • "Herschel Space Observatory Finds Precursors of Life In Orion"

    I called Orion and let him know about this. He said he was well aware he had precursors of life inside, but failed to see how a telescope could be used in place of a microscope and an, um, sample to make this determination. When he asked where I got this from I told him. My son thanks you all for your concern, and promises to take due care when handling his precursors and resulting cursors, as long as you'll promise to point your telescope at som

  • 1. Researcher claims "possibility of life on X".
    2. Publicity
    3. President writes a letter. Bill Clinton (1997): “It speaks of the possibility of life. If this discovery is confirmed, it will surely be one of the most stunning insights into our Universe that science has ever uncovered. Its implications are as far-reaching and awe-inspiring as can be imagined.”
    4. Profit.
    5. Loop 1-4

    http://science.slashdot.org/story/10/03/06/0252237/California-Lakes-Arsenic-Hints-At-a-Shadow-Biosphere [slashdot.org]
    http://science.s [slashdot.org]

You are in a maze of UUCP connections, all alike.

Working...