Hubble Finds Building Block of Life In Extra Solar Planet

Posted Mar 19, 2008 by Saikat Basu
The Hubble space telescope has found evidence of methane, an organic building block, in a planet 63 light years away from Earth. This is reported to be the first such discovery outside our immediate solar system.
Here's some news that justifies Hubble's billion dollar price tag. It's a step, albeit a teeny weeny one to find signs of life in deep space.
Scientists announced that Hubble has discovered the signs of organic molecules for the first time in a planet outside our solar system. Astronomers used Hubble to find methane in the atmosphere of a planet called HD189733b. That's where the good news ends.
Scientists said that the planet is 63 light years from Earth, is the size of Jupiter and has temperatures around 1,800 degrees Fahrenheit. So right now its just a bit hot to host any sort of life. To recount our school science, methane is composed of carbon and hydrogen and is found in organic processes. On Earth, for example it is found in natural gases and cow belches. Methane contributes to the formation of amino acids, one of the building blocks of proteins and therefore, life.
But Giovanna Tinetti of the University College London, one of the researchers, said - "For this specific planet we observed, methane cannot be produced biologically."
Also, scientists were able to confirm through their observations the the previously reported discovery of water molecules in the planet's atmosphere. HD189733b is one of the nearly 270 planets discovered outside our solar system. Because of its proximity to its sun and the resulting high temperatures any organic sources for the methane have been ruled out. As, Giovanna Tinetti joked."It's highly unlikely that cows could survive here."
The discovery as reported on Wednesday in the scientific journal, Nature assumes importance because of such a discovery on a planet outside our solar system. Methane has been routinely found within our solar system, but this is the first as far as an extra solar one goes. The same methodology followed by the scientists for this discovery is relevant for any continuing search efforts.
Who knows we just might find some belching cows out there one day.