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Earth Space Science

Life's Building Blocks Found On Asteroid 24 Themis 135

Hugh Pickens writes "The LA Times reports that scientists analyzing infrared light reflected by 24 Themis, one of the largest asteroids in the solar system, have discovered evidence of water ice as well as organic compounds — findings that bolster a leading theory for the origins of life on Earth that the essential building blocks of life came from asteroids. 'Up until now there was no sign that asteroids had any abundant organics or ice on them,' says Joshua P. Emery, a planetary astronomer at the University of Tennessee. Typically, ice on the surface of an object such as 24 Themis would quickly vaporize and vanish, says planetary scientist Richard Binzel. 'Seeing freshly exposed ice on the surface, now that's a surprise. It has to be replenished from below, somehow.' The possibility that water could have come from asteroids adds weight to the theory that water and organic molecules may not have originated on Earth because the Earth did not become conducive to water or organic molecules until relatively recently."
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Life's Building Blocks Found On Asteroid 24 Themis

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  • Not testable (Score:5, Informative)

    by TapeCutter ( 624760 ) * on Friday April 30, 2010 @08:33AM (#32042928) Journal
    "findings that bolster a leading theory for the origins of life on Earth that the essential building blocks of life came from asteroids."

    No it doesn't, that "leading theory"(*) is untestable and completely ignores contra evidence. Hydrogen, Oxygen and Carbon are respectively the 1st, 3rd and 4th most abundant elements in the universe. Hydrogen and oxygen combust to create water. Modern day volcanos spew all three elements out in large quantities, mainly as water vapour and carbon based molecules. If a rock 100 odd km across has organics and water what in the world make anyone think that a rock over 6000 km in diameter formed from the same primordial material would have have none?

    While it's certainly very likely that some water and organics arived via asteroids, frankly the ridiculous improbability that ALL of it arrived via asteroids is too fucking stupid for words. Such psuedo-scientific claptrap only detracts from what is an otherwise fascinating discovery.

    (*) = Here is what a real leading theory for abiogenisis [youtube.com] looks like; "no ridiculous improbability, no supernatural forces, no lightning striking a puddle, just chemistry", and with a great soundtrack to boot!
  • not leading, wacky! (Score:2, Informative)

    by metageek ( 466836 ) on Friday April 30, 2010 @08:46AM (#32042998)

    "findings that bolster a leading theory for the origins of life on Earth that the essential building blocks of life came from asteroids"

    bullshit, this is not a leading theory, rather calling it a "wacky theory" could be a better description...

  • by mrwiggly ( 34597 ) on Friday April 30, 2010 @10:09AM (#32043758)

    The theory goes that a mars sized planetoid, named Theia, had formed at earths L4 or L5 Lagrangian points. As it's mass grew due to impacts, it was no longer stable at that point, and slammed into earth. The resulting debris cloud came together to form the moon.

    See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Giant_impact_hypothesis

  • by mangu ( 126918 ) on Friday April 30, 2010 @11:21AM (#32044680)

    this picture [subjunctive.net] provides a very good idea of the total volume of water on earth.

  • Re:lots of crashes (Score:3, Informative)

    by gstoddart ( 321705 ) on Friday April 30, 2010 @11:42AM (#32044986) Homepage

    "how many asteriods must have crashed into the earth to get all the oceans???"

    Minimum seven, if each one falls into a different ocean.

    But ... there' only one ocean.

A list is only as strong as its weakest link. -- Don Knuth