Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Yuggothian Unknowns: Revealed?

Here is a run down of planet science - we are not alone, it appears.

The planet, called GJ 1214b, is the second super-Earth — a planet with a mass roughly between five and 10 times Earth’s — detected as it crossed in front of its star and the first that is close enough for astronomers to study its atmosphere. It is 6.5 times more massive than Earth and 2.7 times wider. GJ 1214b orbits its star, a red dwarf 40 light years from Earth, once every 38 hours at a distance of 1.3 million miles — about one-fortieth the distance between Mercury and the sun. Despite its close orbit, the planet reaches temperatures of only about 280º Celsius because its star is relatively cool.


The original Yuggoth, Pluto, has clouds and the atmosphere may be composed of tiny frozen spherules of nitrogen or carbon monoxide. Evidence for life? Stay tuned.


These next from Discovery Magazine top 100 science stories of 2009:

# 8, Planets are being found everywhere we look.
# 16, The Moon does have water. It seems to have an atmosphere.
# 21, water confirmed on Mars (and maybe liquid).
# 56, Saturn's moon, Titan, has stroms and weather - clouds of methane which probablt rains.
# 73, Early Venus looked somewhat like Earth.

And about ancient Earth?

#91, Earth prior to 2.4 billion years ago was thick with nickel which bred methanogen bacteria. The cooling brought in an era of cyanogen bacteria which soared the oxygen levels.

# 12, meshlike patterns distinct to spnges were found in rocks 850 million years ago. This is pretty rapid complex life formation on a planet that only had bacteria a geologic moment ago.

And finally, how quick can life form?

# 98, Chemist Reza Ghadri created a thioester peptide acid (tPNA) that is a simple, stripped down RNA/DNA. It has properties:

tPNA in solution dances about and stabilizes quickly
tPNA in a soup of DNA bits reshuffles them matching up bases
tPNA in connection with RNA conformed rapidly to the RNA alignment


In essence, it does appear that life starts quickly deep under the surface of many, many planets (and moons) and if the atmosphere and temperatures are within a narrow range complex forms of life rapidly appear at the surface.

We are not alone.

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