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Space Science

Stars Found To Produce Complex Organic Compounds 93

Posted by samzenpus
from the galaxy-seeding dept.
InfiniteZero writes "Researchers at the University of Hong Kong observed stars at different evolutionary phases and found that they are able to produce complex organic compounds and eject them into space, filling the regions between stars. The compounds are so complex that their chemical structures resemble the makeup of coal and petroleum, the study's lead author Sun Kwok, of the University of Hong Kong, said."
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Stars Found To Produce Complex Organic Compounds

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  • The compounds are so complex that their chemical structures resemble the makeup of coal and petroleum, the study's lead author Sun Kwok, of the University of Hong Kong, said.

    Free Gas, Next station 200 light years?

  • This is just the fecies of space whales. They gotta poop to ya know!
  • Maybe Joni Mitchell was right - we are stardust ater all!

    • Re:Startdust? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by dido (9125) <dido@impe r i u m .ph> on Friday October 28, 2011 @04:34AM (#37866000)

      Stardust is exactly right. Most of the heavy elements (non-hydrogen or helium) were produced, if not by the mechanism described in the article, in the death throes of heavy stars that go supernova. All the Big Bang gave us was a lot of hydrogen, a small amount of helium, and a negligible quantity of everything else. The rest had to wait for the stars and stellar nucleosynthesis [wikimedia.org] to be produced.

      • > Stardust is exactly right. Most of the heavy elements (non-hydrogen or helium) were produced

        Enough with the PC "stardust" already. Let's say it how it is.

        We are starpoop!

        • by Lockyy (2486084)
          Another new euphemism to use now, "brb, gotta dust the bathroom"
        • Actually, some of the heavier elements only came about from supernovae (and even the lighter elements were only scattered about thanks to supernovae). Therefore, we are star debris!

    • by treeves (963993)

      Carl Sagan said "star stuff" . A little less poetic, but the same idea.

  • by martin-boundary (547041) on Friday October 28, 2011 @03:47AM (#37865792)

    the compounds are so complex that their chemical structures resemble the makeup of coal and petroleum,

    So THAT's where the dinosaurs went 65 million years ago!

    They built starships and flew into the sun!

    • I know it's a joke... ... but just want to point out that the dinosaurs -> petroleum thing is mostly a myth- most of the oil came from microscopic organisms not dinosaurs.

      • Really *tiny* dinosaurs. After all, aren't most of those microscopic species extinct too?

      • by hvm2hvm (1208954)
        and those microscopic organisms ate corpses, i.e. dinosaurs. When they say "dinosaurs" they mean "decomposing dinosaurs" and yeah, decomposing is done by micro organisms
  • Carl Sagan (Score:4, Insightful)

    by NoobixCube (1133473) on Friday October 28, 2011 @03:56AM (#37865842) Journal

    He said it best. We are made of star stuff!

    • by Virtucon (127420)

      No...

      He said "billions and billions and billions" best. Over and over and over.

      • No, that was just a retcon propagated by people who probably never saw "Cosmos" in the first place, or if they did, it's all they remember. Just think of the total lack of imagination at seeing a wondrous series like "Cosmos" and the only thing you come away with is "durrr, he said billions LOL". Munchkins.
        • by Virtucon (127420)

          Oh please give me a break! Yes I did watch Cosmos and he did say "billions and billions" an awful lot during that show. Just because somebody lampoons him doesn't mean they don't have respect for his intelligence, so don't get all balled up in a tongue-in-cheek comment.

          Oh, BTW, he even wrote a book called "Billions and Billions." [wikipedia.org]

    • by Beorytis (1014777)
      No. That was Moby [youtube.com].
  • by rts008 (812749) on Friday October 28, 2011 @04:00AM (#37865868) Journal

    The 'question' of how life started on our amazing planet gets easier to 'answer' with every new discovery.

    "Just the facts, sir." (apologies to Sgt. Friday)
    To me the facts are even more amazing and awesome than any myths or superstitions that persist, to explain our world and universe.

    There are many times I feel humbled and awed by the scientific discoveries and technological advances I have witnessed in my lifetime. (reference: I'm coming up TOO QUICKLY! on 54 years old)

    Just the amount and nature of 'former Sci-Fi' tech that has become reality in my time boggles my mind...Wow!

    [disclaimer: yes, I did RTFA, please put away your torches and pitchforks] :-)

  • Forget fusion, the next source of energy is STAR POOP!!! Now, who do we send out to gather it?

  • Stars are too hot for compounds to exist in them. The componds are actually synthesized in what TFA calls the circumstellar enviroment.
    • Just my first thought too but...

      TFS is actually correct, as it is taken directly from the article.
      And, no it don't says it produces it IN the star, but that the star produces it. That is, if the star produces the compounds around it, it is still the star that makes is, just not inside it.

      So for a long long time in /. history, the summery is actually very correct :)

  • So finally we are sons of the starts ? Curious
  • by DoofusOfDeath (636671) on Friday October 28, 2011 @07:39AM (#37866908)

    I can't wait for Fox News to bash the sun as a net-carbon-emitter.

    • by Tsingi (870990)

      I can't wait for Fox News to bash the sun as a net-carbon-emitter.

      The first thing I thought of was that the Right Wing media is going to come up with some preposterous explanation that blames some fundamentally obvious exploit on the Sun.

      Death by Doofus!

      • The first thing I thought of was that the Right Wing media is going to come up with some preposterous explanation that blames some fundamentally obvious exploit on the Sun.

        Apparently you haven't been educated, Tsingi. That exploit of the sun *IS* why and how the dinosaurs died. Didn't you read your (c)2012 Science of the Universe school book??

        • The first thing I thought of was that the Right Wing media is going to come up with some preposterous explanation that blames some fundamentally obvious exploit on the Sun.

          Apparently you haven't been educated, Tsingi. That exploit of the sun *IS* why and how the dinosaurs died. Didn't you read your (c)2012 Science of the Universe school book??

          Careful, I don't think you studied up on that one. The 2009 edition explained that it was a joke the dinosaurs were playing on the mammalian hunters.

          --
          Guns don't kill people. Dinosaur soup does.

      • by jafac (1449)

        No - this is exactly the fodder needed for the abiogenesis whackos out there; who are going to keep saying that if we only drill harder and deeper, we'll find more oil, and we'll all be just fine.

    • I can't wait for Fox News to bash the sun as a net-carbon-emitter.

      I can't wait to watch the "fair and balanced" rebuttal on that one.

  • How "they" know that these chemicals aren't the result of organic processes? If a few thousand planets in the vicinity were ground up in a traffic jam after life formed, wouldn't we see something like this?

  • Origin of Life? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by wisnoskij (1206448) on Friday October 28, 2011 @10:21AM (#37868446) Homepage

    "The compounds are so complex that their chemical structures resemble the makeup of coal and petroleum"
    Who cares if it produced a little bit or even a lot of fuel like substances, could they have produced the organic matter needed to kick start life?
    From what I understand the only real missing link in explaining how life started on this planet is the formation of some relatively simple organic compounds (not that they do not have some very good theories and promising results).

    • by Verdatum (1257828)
      Relatively simple? We've not managed to work out an experiment to form a protein through nature, and we are a long way off from figuring out the formation of the first functional nucleic acid chain. That's pretty complicated stuff. After that, we gotta work out a chain that can replicate itself, which is hugely complicated. We've managed to form some amino acids, and even making anything past the simplest of them is pretty difficult. Still, the fact that any organic compounds are produced from stars is
      • by HiThere (15173)

        I think you need to work on understanding time scales, quantities, and probability.

        If life were started by an accident so improbable that in the entire history of experimentation (starting back with flint knapping) it would be unreasonable to expect it to have happened, it could still be nigh unto a certainty given the whole planet's oceans, and a billion years to work in. Now that's NOT the most likely way for complex molecules to have originated. I'm no expert, but I suspect that small volcanic bubbles

        • by Verdatum (1257828)
          I'm fully aware that long time frames are used as part of the explanation for abiogenesis. The long time frames and random factors are all in relation to producing the proper conditions come into alignment to allow the reaction to take place. My point was, the molecules are so complex that we are not able to reverse-engineer them to come up with any set of conditions that might conceivably have occurred in nature that, when recreated in a experiment, creates the compounds again. Compare this to simple am
          • by HiThere (15173)

            The problem isn't that we can't come up with an explanation. The problem is that there are LOTS of potential explanations, and the evidence is too scanty to really eliminate most of them.

            E.g., we say that DNA couldn't have been the first replicator, because it isn't stable enough. But it could have evolved in a micro-clime that happened to stabilize it. This is quite improbable, but it can't really be ruled out. (It is so improbable that nobody seriously considers it, which is why I mention it as an exa

            • by Verdatum (1257828)
              I haven't heard of any replicatable potential explanations. Regardless, my point was and continues to be, it isn't simple.
    • so these are renewable energy after all? :P

  • Then life must be everywhere in the universe!

  • Since when are coal or petroleum complex molecules? Coal is to varying degrees just carbon (the harder the coal, more it is just plain C) and petroleum is chains of Carbon with hydrogens haning off the sides. These are pretty simple molecules.

  • by starfishsystems (834319) on Friday October 28, 2011 @12:49PM (#37870472) Homepage
    Don't tell me that Velikovsky [wikipedia.org] was right after all! All that blarney about biblical "manna from heaven" being edible hydrocarbons released into the atmosphere by an interplanetary event?
  • I'm horrified that this made it to Nature. It has certainly sealed my opinion that Nature publishes based more on name than content. Aside from nitpicky little things like leaving the structure such a horrible looking mess (when even my undergrads know how to use the clean-up tool in ChemDraw), why do they think that they can recreate a molecular structure from an IR spectrum obtained from a heterogeneous point source? Occam's Razor would suggest that this bizarrely complex structure isn't what they are act

  • Here is one of my bi-annual posts reminding all about Thomas Gold [wikimedia.org]'s theory about the abiological origin of natural gas, oil and/or coal (which we call "fossil" fuels, perhaps erroneously). He published a book about this: The Deep Hot Biosphere [barnesandnoble.com]

    One part of this theory has apparently become commonly accepted: "extremophiles" extend deep throughout the earth's crust [newscientist.com]. Cosmic hydrocarbons had already been observed in nebula, this new result appears to be another pointer in the same direction.

    There's a c

  • I have empirical evidence that you don't need to be famous to do this... Given a large burrito, I too can "produce complex organic compounds and eject them into space, filling the regions between stars".

  • Americans, do you hear that?

    "The compounds are so complex that their chemical structures resemble the makeup of coal and petroleum"

    There is oil up there. Oil. OIL!

    Now can you please start financing NASA moar so that they can do more cool stuff and let you keep driving your Chevy Tahoes?

    ~

    • by Lando (9348)

      Doesn't one of Saturn's moons have a lot of petroleum? Seems to me that there was an article posted some time ago here that was about an engineer that said that the quantities of oil produced by rotting material was more than should be expected and thus there had to be a different source and pointed out a spectrogram that showed significant quantities on one of Saturn's moons.

Computers are unreliable, but humans are even more unreliable. Any system which depends on human reliability is unreliable. -- Gilb

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