ISON Experiments – CIOC

At the Comet ISON Observing Campaign (CIOC) meeting in August 2013, some outstanding scientists led by Dr Mike Mumma of NASA Goddard Centre for Astrobiology, discuss their experiments for Nov/Dec 2013

Mumma mentioned that their studies have a population of 26 Comets. They have already identified 24 molecules. They are interested in comparing Kuiper Belt Comets (which move elliptically in the plane of the ecliptic) to Oort Cloud Comets (ISON).

The experiments will have the following overall objectives. 

The main points I took home : 

  • The level of sophistication of our scientists’ study is well beyond most peoples vision or comprehension
  • Water is already accepted as the pre-dominant “non organic volatile” 
  • Extensive experiments on 14 previous COMETS will be continued on ISON 
  • A “taxonomy” (ie classification system) is evolving for Comets. But I notice exoComets are not yet part of the planned taxonomy
  • ExoComets get a promising mention on one slide : The origins of Oort Cloud Comets is still uncertain – are they exoComets. I say “YES”. 
  • Finding “life” continues to be a challenge until NASA defines what are the biomarkers for life – expect paper in 2014 by NASA astrobiologist Chris McKay. Focus will continue to be looking for complex molecules required in DNA. 

ISON presents yet another opportunity to continue the relentless advance of human discoveries.

This one slide, showing the “paradigm changing items”, is probably enough detail for this BLOG. See the video to understand where we are in the actual realization that “Life IS a Cosmic Phenomenon”. 

They seem to have not considered the possibility that inbound hyperbolic comets like ISON might come from adjacent stars. It is only after the kind of event we saw yesterday (where ISON’s eccentricity dropped below “1.00”) that the SUN captures the COMET and traps it in an elliptical orbit of thousands of years. ISON’s orbit period is now 400,864 years 🙂 Sorry ISON. I will sadly not be around when you finally return 400,000 years from now.

To understand the “capture” (or non Capture) issue better, click here to see an explanation from JPL’s Dr Alan Chamberlin on why, even though “e” has just dipped below “1”, it is not correct to say that we’re witnessing the capture of comet ISON.

144 Billion Earth-like Exoplanets in our Galaxy

June 2013 : Kepler Mission updated its estimates. Here are these latest numbers right from the horses-mouth (Professor Ravi Kopparapu). As at 20 June 2013, Dr. Kopparapu, expert with the Kepler Mission estimates :

  • Stars in the Galaxy : 400 billion
  • The number of habitable earth-like exoplanets in our Milky Way Galaxy : 144 billion (> 1011).
  • The OORT Cloud around our Sun (it is also hypothesized by some astronomers that most suns have OORT clouds) is estimated :
      • to contain : several trillion individual asteroids (objects) larger than 1 km (0.62 mi).
      • to reach 1 ly towards the next closest star just 4 ly away – Proxima Centauri.

Comets have a wide range of orbital periods, ranging from a few years to hundreds of thousands of years. Short-period comets originate in the Kuiper belt (eg Halley’s Comet – orbit 75 years). Longer-period comets are thought to originate in the Oort cloud (Orbit – thousands of years). The latest theory is that they are mostly water, with a frozen, dust-encrusted shell. This would explain why objects like the Chelyabinsk, in February 2013, often leave few meteorites (rock fragments).

This year (In 2013), ALMA (Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA))  – which CANADA is part of – managed from Herzberg Institute in Victoria, BC) has confirmed that researchers have discovered an important pair of prebiotic molecules in the icy particles in interstellar space (ISM). ISM is the empty part of the spiral arms.

The chemicals, found in a giant cloud of gas about 25,000 light-years (half way to centre of the galaxy) from Earth in ISM, may be a precursor to a key component of DNA and the other may have a role in the formation of an important amino acid.

Researchers found a molecule called cyanomethanimine, which produces adenine, one of the four nucleobases that form the “rungs” in the ladder-like structure of DNA. The other molecule, called ethanamine, is thought to play a role in forming alanine, one of the twenty amino acids in the genetic code.

Previously, scientists thought such processes took place in the very tenuous gas between the stars. The new discoveries, however, suggest that the chemical formation sequences for these molecules occurred not in gas, but on the surfaces of ice grains in interstellar space.

In February 2013, NASA ALMA spokesman announced : “Finding these molecules in an interstellar gas cloud means that important building blocks for DNA and amino acids can ‘seed’ newly-formed planets with the chemical precursors for life.” 

See Video Interview and Animations with Dr. Anthony Remijan of the National Radio Astronomy Observatory.

 “…..Microbiology may be said to have had its beginnings in the nineteen-forties. A new world of the most astonishing complexity began then to be revealed. In retrospect I find it remarkable that microbiologists did not at once recognise that the world into which they had penetrated had of necessity to be of cosmic order. I suspect that the cosmic quality of microbiology will seem as obvious to future generations as the Sun being the centre of the solar system seems obvious to the present generation…..”

Sir Fred Hoyle