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The Engineer
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Hubble Telescope Finds Carbon Dioxide on Distant Planet

12/10/2008 1:52 AM

I hope you are listening SETI......Time to change your approach as discussed in this earlier CR4 Discussion.

From the article: NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has discovered both carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide in the atmosphere of a distant planet, in a key step for finding extraterrestrial life, the space agency said Tuesday.

Detecting organic compounds that can be a by-product of life processes on an Earth-like body could one day "provide the first evidence of life beyond our planet," NASA said in a statement.

The discovery was made on a Jupiter-size planet 63 light years away from Earth that is too hot for life, and is all gas and liquid.

"We're not closer to discovering life on this particular planet," admitted Ray Villard of the Space Telescope Science Institute.

"But it has the mix of chemistry that on the right planet could be a biotracer for life," he said.

Scientists have studied the planet intensively, finding the organic molecule methane as well as water vapor, Villard added.

The fact that at such an early stage with a space telescope launched in the 90s we can determine molecules and their abundances in far away solar systems is remarkable. Imagine what we could actually accomplished if we tried? Imagine if instead of this insanity of sending a man to the Moon again we took that money and launched a super sensitive space telescope / spectroscopy system by which we could explore our galactic neighborhood, look for signs of life and seeing what other solar systems are composed of?

Our regression in the funding of science and the listlessness of the organizations that are supposed to promote science for us is causing us to miss important opportunities.

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#1

Re: Hubble Telescope Finds Carbon Dioxide on Distant Planet

12/10/2008 2:10 AM

"Imagine if instead of this insanity of sending a man to the Moon again we took that money and launched a super sensitive space telescope / spectroscopy system by which we could explore our galactic neighborhood, look for signs of life and seeing what other solar systems are composed of?"

What of it? What exactly are the practical applications of detecting extra-solar life? The odds of it being intelligent are slim and the odds of ever being able to make meaningful contact with it if it is intelligent are even slimmer. Developing and proving technology to send humans to other bodies within this solar system, support human life there indefinitely and either harvest resources or open potential colonies has far more practical value.

I'm not saying that answering the greatest scientific/theological question man has ever composed isn't important, only that the projects you seem to classify as insane have value as well.

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The Engineer
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#4
In reply to #1

Re: Hubble Telescope Finds Carbon Dioxide on Distant Planet

12/10/2008 11:48 AM

This isn't just about finding life or not finding life. Launching such a telescope with a spectroscopy system would allow us to see the chemical make up of other solar systems. It would expose us to exotic molecules that we were unaware of that we could find uses for. Our knowledge of the evolution of stars and nebulae would be greatly increased. It would spark a revolution in our understanding of the universe, just as Hubble did.

I keep hearing how the moon mission will spur innovations. What innovations did the last mission spur? Why is this taken to be self-evident?

You Wrote:"I'm not saying that answering the greatest scientific/theological question man has ever composed isn't important, only that the projects you seem to classify as insane have value as well."

I'm not saying going to the Moon is insane. I'm saying devoting most of NASA's resources to such a mission, which they are doing, that is insane. There are simply better ways to spend the money, one of which is a space telescope with a spectroscopy system.

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Anonymous Poster
#9
In reply to #4

Re: Hubble Telescope Finds Carbon Dioxide on Distant Planet

12/10/2008 2:49 PM

It would expose us to exotic molecules that we were unaware of that we could find uses for.

What use can we have of some exotic particle we cannot harvest?

I keep hearing how the moon mission will spur innovations. What innovations did the last mission spur? Why is this taken to be self-evident?

It is not self-evident, but I think it is fair to characterize the prior moon missions as more of a political/publicity stunt than as legitimate research. We really had no business being on the moon with that state of technology. Who's to say what innovations may be spurred by re-tracing our steps with fresh eyes. To say that the space program spurred no innovations is extremely dishonest. At the very least, it gave us experience working and manipulating objects in space - experience that directly influenced the HST which you place so much (warranted) value in.

I'm not saying going to the Moon is insane.

I apologize for misunderstanding your statement: "Imagine if instead of this insanity of sending a man to the Moon again..." That seemed pretty unequivocal to me.

There are simply better ways to spend the money, one of which is a space telescope with a spectroscopy system.

That is your opinion and only your opinion, not fact. It seems that others with more influence don't share it.

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The Engineer
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#11
In reply to #9

Re: Hubble Telescope Finds Carbon Dioxide on Distant Planet

12/10/2008 2:52 PM

I think you are the same guest who is harassing me in another thread. I'm going to stop engaging with you as I suspect your motives are other than you present. If I'm wrong, I apologize, feel free to sign in and we can continue our discussion. Otherwise I'm afraid we're done here.

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Anonymous Poster
#12
In reply to #11

Re: Hubble Telescope Finds Carbon Dioxide on Distant Planet

12/10/2008 3:08 PM

Sorry to hear it, and sorry you're being harassed. I was really interested to hear why you value one project so much over the other. I expected that as a guest, I would not be recognized as an authority, but I thought I could still participate. Sorry for the inconvenience.

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The Engineer
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#13
In reply to #12

Re: Hubble Telescope Finds Carbon Dioxide on Distant Planet

12/10/2008 3:14 PM

Good stuff.

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#14
In reply to #13

Re: Hubble Telescope Finds Carbon Dioxide on Distant Planet

12/10/2008 3:19 PM

Then again, maybe the definition of "Life" is the subject-matter here. The on going debate on "Is there life out there" got to be anthropocentric to a great degree over the years, which is why I tend to adhere to "Self-Replicating-Entities" as Linus Pauling suggested in the sixties

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The Engineer
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#15
In reply to #14

Re: Hubble Telescope Finds Carbon Dioxide on Distant Planet

12/10/2008 3:59 PM

Self-Replication is pretty common, but entity, which I will interpret here as individual units, is what really makes life unique.

Not to be semantic, but one could argue that ice in the presence of water and cold is self-replicating, forming a repeating crystal lattice. But it certainly isn't individual units. The cool thing about RNA and DNA is that the molecules, when they are in the right situation, can be used as a template to create a copy, which, and this is the important part, can go off on it's own and do the same. So I think that "entity" part is really the important thing.

I would certainly agree that the self-replication of RNA is a delicate process as compared to the crystalization of any solid, but I don't think it is so delicate as to be rare. I think if you have the conditions like you do on Earth, it becomes inevitable. In fact, I think one worthwhile endeavor in genetics would be trying to identifying possibly multiple starts in our own history through genetic analysis. What I mean to say is that I don't subscribe to the one and done theory of the origin of life. I am more inclined to believe it started many times in different places, sometimes dying off, sometimes merging.

You can see that with such a belief its easier to view life as robust and thus more likely to occur around the universe. Still, such a belief requires several leap of faiths I'll admit.

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#16
In reply to #15

Re: Hubble Telescope Finds Carbon Dioxide on Distant Planet

12/10/2008 4:43 PM

"...agree that the self-replication of RNA is a delicate process..." - It is commonly viewed today that RNA replication, along with the emergence of retro-viruses, preceded the development of DNA - cooperating with ribosomes - even in Prokaryotes - the simplest form of microbes - not to mention Eukaryotes - later generations of membrane owning microbes.

As a matter of fact, to this day, viruses in general, are considered "Renegade-Genes" in the sense of their ribosomal ability - to replicate without the presence of a template.

Just to remind ourselves, the RNA, in a highly developed cell, serves as the replication template to the the instruction set written in the DNA.

If such powerful ability to manipulate a given chemical soup is found outside the sphere of viral influence, maybe membrane owning microbes and DNA would have never materialise, being of a higher order of control and complexity, especially in regard to mutation-control, essential to the emergence of the Multicell world, some 600 million years ago, whereby different specialised uni-cell species agreed to share the same common genome, and tolerate higher and higher degrees of symbiosis.

The highest degree of symbiosis we know of to this day, is the existence of Mitochondrial DNA, foreign to our own, within our cells, not only with no harm done, but essential to our cellular energy-exchange.

Ain't life grand ?

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#2

Re: Hubble Telescope Finds Carbon Dioxide on Distant Planet

12/10/2008 5:40 AM

"...by-product of life processes on an Earth..." - More likely a Precursor for life.

Organic compounds may be found anywhere, in the remnants of second and third generation stars, where the vicinity of light and mid elements allow (within the permissible range of temperatures) to bond first into carbon-based compounds, and later for those to form the more complex "organic" type, utilising the carbon's extreme ability to bond to other elements.

Yet, even at the chemical complexity level of Amino Acids, the formation of self-replicating matter we may call "Life" is not assured, because for that, a lot more unlikely occurrences is required: the formation of Pyrimidines with matching chirality, and even then, once started, it has to be stable enough in a challenging (chemically hostile) environment, to be able to produce something to the effect of Ribosomal "mechanics" coupled with availability of the right "raw-materials", protected from decomposing, i.e, enclosed within some protective membrane (a cretation to itself), etc, etc, etc

It is postulated, that on earth with it's extreme favorable conditioning for life (temperature range, and chemical evolution to a suitable degree) "Life" has started many times, before the current "left-chirality" version was allowed to stabilise, beyond a given point, some 3.5 billion years ago

Even a chemical precursor for life, does not assure it's appearance or stabilisation

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The Engineer
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#5
In reply to #2

Re: Hubble Telescope Finds Carbon Dioxide on Distant Planet

12/10/2008 11:56 AM

You Wrote: "Even a chemical precursor for life, does not assure it's appearance or stabilisation"

Of course not. Descartes would argue you can't be sure of anything. But if you see the chemical signal for certain biological life, and minerals associated with the waste of biological life in significant quantities (statistically speaking), and an atmosphere that is consistent with biological life, coupled with a planetary orientation that's supportive of biological life. At least you can target such a place for more in depth study with all the tools availble, such that one could, through statistical analysis, determine to a high probability, the likelyhood of life.

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The Engineer
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#7
In reply to #5

Re: Hubble Telescope Finds Carbon Dioxide on Distant Planet

12/10/2008 12:33 PM

Also, I'm not the only one opposed to this moon mission (not that you said I was, I just figured I'd post a link to a softer objection than my own), see this article below:

Dissent Grows as Scientists oppose NASA's New Moon Mission

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#8
In reply to #5

Re: Hubble Telescope Finds Carbon Dioxide on Distant Planet

12/10/2008 2:24 PM

Basically, yes. In my post above, I was trying to emphasize what an unlikely rarity the introduction and then the stabilisation of life is, in the seemingly endless sea of minerals around.

The "big-numbers" principle forces us to take into account the possibility of billions concurrent living planets, however impossible it is for us to ever detect such existence, let alone establish contact or even document such existence, due to time and distance gaps, seemingly impossible to cross.

In that sense alone, SETI is a folly. But in the name of human curiosity, any further endeavor to understand the universe we live in, is a worthwhile effort, because in many indirect ways, it help us establish a more viable and dependable basic science and philosophy, and even, God forbid, resulting technology.

I was aiming to lay some reasonable expectation-base to this issue. So many similar issue seem to attract, entice, the far-out fringe, many times hushing some rational, empirical discussion in this subject-matter, forcing it into the realm of the...

You get my point

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The Engineer
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#10
In reply to #8

Re: Hubble Telescope Finds Carbon Dioxide on Distant Planet

12/10/2008 2:50 PM

I'm not convinced life is a rarity, I guess that's where I'm disagreeing from you. Organic molecules, polymers, these things love to form. A planet is a very big thing. All you need is a self-sustaining reaction to occur and it can evolve into life. Over the course of billions of years this is likely to happen if the conditions are right.

Think of it this way, the current debate on the origins of life on Earth center around whether we have evidence dating back to 3.85 billion years ago or "only" 3.65 billion years ago. That's not saying when life started, that's how far back we have evidence of it. It gets harder to go back further because of plate techntonics. The Earth itself is only 4.55 billion years old. So basically there was probably life on Earth within 700 million years or sooner. That is a short time. I suspect we'll find that life occured within the first 300 million years when our technology is good enough. That's remarkably quick. Quick implies easy, at least on this planet.

Life is just a series of self-sustaining chemical reactions that grow in complexity over time. I believe we will find life as prevelaint as planets or stars or galaxies. But only if we look.

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#3

Re: Hubble Telescope Finds Carbon Dioxide on Distant Planet

12/10/2008 11:06 AM

Sorry, Roger. I will dissent on this one.

Placing man on the Moon is the gateway to setting up laboratories to do just what you would like to see. Additionally, it pushes technology forward, which we all know the benefits of that.

Perhaps a more effective mechanism (in my mind) is to use the "bailout" monies, which exceed 1 trillion dollars so far, for useful scientific projects instead of rewarding bad business practices.

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The Engineer
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#6
In reply to #3

Re: Hubble Telescope Finds Carbon Dioxide on Distant Planet

12/10/2008 11:59 AM

Sure, if we have the money to do both, lets do both. I'm a scientist, I'd love much more science. The problem is that isn't going to happen (and let me say that I hope I'm completely wrong), we've turned our back on science in this country. I really think in depth spectroscopy of the region of space around us is a much better way to spend tens of billions of dollars than building a space station on the moon. When you have to protect human beings in a spaceflight, it becomes terribly costly.

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#17
In reply to #6

Re: Hubble Telescope Finds Carbon Dioxide on Distant Planet

12/10/2008 9:40 PM

From a pure science perspective you probably are right.

However, in order for that funding to materialize you need to capture the imagination of the people and watching astronauts on the NASA feed has always been a good way for the average person to become connected with science.

Successful science has always been a mix of science, national pride, and showmanship.

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#18

Re: Hubble Telescope Finds Carbon Dioxide on Distant Planet

12/11/2008 2:53 AM

Lordy, lordy,

All this hubb bub, bubs. If your memories were not so befuddled, like me you would remember living on many other planets in this and other universes. Not all of them are Nitrogen, Oxygen dominated atmospheric types and NONE are one Earth gravity strength. Yeeah - I know that sounds facetious - but there it is. A really, honest to goodness, clear memory going back before this life can actually be developed only and certainly having found out that the first step towards having a really good memory - one has to stop listening to the herd agreements and look for other voices; both inner voices and voices outside the box. Focusing on remembering things that FEEL, deep down and certain... right... This galaxy - this universe, other universes we are unable to detect with current technology - are populated with many, more planets around stars than we will ever be able to do more than estimate poorly. And, yep - a large number have "organic" life and a percentage have evil or good beings we may or may not want to converse with... The undercut to why we are all so interested in extra-solar planets - hmmm?

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#21
In reply to #18

Re: Hubble Telescope Finds Carbon Dioxide on Distant Planet

12/11/2008 11:39 AM

During the next navel inspection, if you go deep enough you just might find that all of it is illusion. Just thinking outside the box here.

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#19

Re: Hubble Telescope Finds Carbon Dioxide on Distant Planet

12/11/2008 8:22 AM

This discussion brings up something I remember from many years ago.

There has to be life on other planets and in other solar systems because if God could create this entire universe, why do we think we would be the smartest lifeform He could put in it!

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#20
In reply to #19

Re: Hubble Telescope Finds Carbon Dioxide on Distant Planet

12/11/2008 9:31 AM

It's an age-old question, better phrased in the eighteen's century, which goes:

Could God create a stone heavy enough, so that he couldn't lift it ?

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#22
In reply to #20

Re: Hubble Telescope Finds Carbon Dioxide on Distant Planet

12/11/2008 4:16 PM

Calvin and Hobbs got it right, "The surest sign that intelligent life exists elsewhere in the universe is that it has never tried to contact us."

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#23
In reply to #22

Re: Hubble Telescope Finds Carbon Dioxide on Distant Planet

12/11/2008 8:50 PM

That's a good one

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#25
In reply to #20

Re: Hubble Telescope Finds Carbon Dioxide on Distant Planet

12/12/2008 10:47 AM

An age old misunderstanding of the nature and character of the God revealed in the Old and New Testament.

Are there things that this omnipotent God cannot do? Yes, He cannot lie because of His very nature. Jesus said, "if you've seen me you've seen the Father" and "I am the Truth". He cannot make a square circle because it violates the law of non-contradiction (x is p and x is not P) which again is a reflection of His nature.

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#24

Re: Hubble Telescope Finds Carbon Dioxide on Distant Planet

12/11/2008 11:57 PM

I will not be surprised to know shortly from hubble, that the planet is full of chain smokers!

Joke apart. Till recently, (even) scientists (particularly biochemists) believed that we are the only intelligent life in the universe.

Now slowly every body will start believing that there (not only could be) must be many more intelligent lifes in universe

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#26
In reply to #24

Re: Hubble Telescope Finds Carbon Dioxide on Distant Planet

12/12/2008 1:54 PM

Ah-yup,

Columbus had the same trouble. T'wasn't till he formed a consensus among the queens sewing circle that he taught by simple demonstration to became intimately familiar with dead reckoning and shared the secrete of Portuguese discovery of trade winds with them, that a new agreement could be formed with their husbands and lovers via pillow talk, that it was possible that the the world was round; in a round about way

It has long been understood by a few, "Reality is agreements." Untill two or more folks can agree on a thing the single individual, having the single opinion, idea or belief, is considered, crazy.

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