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Topic: Organic Molecules

NASA says Massive Stars Are Factories for Ingredients to Life

 

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – NASA’s telescope on an airplane, the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy, has provided a new glimpse of the chemistry in the inner region surrounding massive young stars where future planets could begin to form.

It found massive quantities of water and organic molecules in these swirling, disk-shaped clouds, offering new insights into how some of the key ingredients of life get incorporated into planets during the earliest stages of formation.

Illustration of a dusty disc rotating around a massive newborn star that’s about 40 times the size of the Sun. SOFIA, the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy, found the inner regions of two of these kinds of discs are filled with organic molecules that are important for life as we know it. These include water, ammonia, methane, and acetylene — which is a chemical building block to larger and more complex organic molecules — illustrated in the call out. (NASA / Ames Research Center / Daniel Rutter)

Illustration of a dusty disc rotating around a massive newborn star that’s about 40 times the size of the Sun. SOFIA, the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy, found the inner regions of two of these kinds of discs are filled with organic molecules that are important for life as we know it. These include water, ammonia, methane, and acetylene — which is a chemical building block to larger and more complex organic molecules — illustrated in the call out. (NASA / Ames Research Center / Daniel Rutter)

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NASA’s Cassini mission data reveals New Organic Compounds in Enceladus Ice Grains

 

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – New kinds of organic compounds, the ingredients of amino acids, have been detected in the plumes bursting from Saturn’s moon Enceladus. The findings are the result of the ongoing deep dive into data from NASA’s Cassini mission.

Powerful hydrothermal vents eject material from Enceladus’ core, which mixes with water from the moon’s massive subsurface ocean before it is released into space as water vapor and ice grains. The newly discovered molecules, condensed onto the ice grains, were determined to be nitrogen- and oxygen-bearing compounds.

In this image captured by NASA's Cassini spacecraft in 2007, the plumes of Enceladus are clearly visible. The moon is nearly in front of the Sun from Cassini's viewpoint. (NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute)

In this image captured by NASA’s Cassini spacecraft in 2007, the plumes of Enceladus are clearly visible. The moon is nearly in front of the Sun from Cassini’s viewpoint. (NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute)

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NASA’s Mars Curiosity Rover moves on from Vera Rubin Ridge

 

NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – After exploring Mars’ Vera Rubin Ridge for more than a year, NASA’s Curiosity rover recently moved on. But a new 360-video lets the public visit Curiosity’s final drill site on the ridge, an area nicknamed “Rock Hall.” The video was created from a panorama taken by the rover on December 19th.

It includes images of its next destination – an area the team has been calling the “clay-bearing unit” and recently named “Glen Torridon” – and the floor of Gale Crater, home to Mount Sharp, the geological feature the rover has been climbing since 2014.

This panorama from the Mast Camera (Mastcam) on NASA's Curiosity Mars rover was taken on Dec. 19 (Sol 2265). The rover's last drill location on Vera Rubin Ridge is visible, as well as the clay region it will spend the next year exploring. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

This panorama from the Mast Camera (Mastcam) on NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover was taken on Dec. 19 (Sol 2265). The rover’s last drill location on Vera Rubin Ridge is visible, as well as the clay region it will spend the next year exploring. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

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NASA’s Dawn spacecraft nears Mission’s End

 

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA’s Dawn mission is drawing to a close after 11 years of breaking new ground in planetary science, gathering breathtaking imagery, and performing unprecedented feats of spacecraft engineering.

Dawn’s mission was extended several times, outperforming scientists’ expectations in its exploration of two planet-like bodies, Ceres and Vesta, that make up 45 percent of the mass of the main asteroid belt. Now the spacecraft is about to run out of a key fuel, hydrazine. When that happens, most likely between mid-September and mid-October, Dawn will lose its ability to communicate with Earth. It will remain in a silent orbit around Ceres for decades.

Artist's concept of NASA's Dawn spacecraft orbiting dwarf planet Ceres. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA)

Artist’s concept of NASA’s Dawn spacecraft orbiting dwarf planet Ceres. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA)

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NASA’s Mars Curiosity rover discovers Ancient Organic Molecules on Mars

 

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA’s Curiosity rover has found new evidence preserved in rocks on Mars that suggests the planet could have supported ancient life, as well as new evidence in the Martian atmosphere that relates to the search for current life on the Red Planet. While not necessarily evidence of life itself, these findings are a good sign for future missions exploring the planet’s surface and subsurface.

The new findings — “tough” organic molecules in 3-billion-year-old sedimentary rocks near the surface, as well as seasonal variations in the levels of methane in the atmosphere — appear in the June 8th edition of the journal Science.

NASA's Curiosity rover has discovered ancient organic molecules on Mars, embedded within sedimentary rocks that are billions of years old. (NASA/GSFC)

NASA’s Curiosity rover has discovered ancient organic molecules on Mars, embedded within sedimentary rocks that are billions of years old. (NASA/GSFC)

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NASA’s Dawn Mission finds Evidence for Organic Material on Dwarf Planet Ceres

 

Written by Elizabeth Landau
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA’s Dawn mission has found evidence for organic material on Ceres, a dwarf planet and the largest body in the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter.

Scientists using the spacecraft’s visible and infrared mapping spectrometer (VIR) detected the material in and around a northern-hemisphere crater called Ernutet. Organic molecules are interesting to scientists because they are necessary, though not sufficient, components of life on Earth.

This enhanced color composite image, made with data from the framing camera aboard NASA's Dawn spacecraft, shows the area around Ernutet Crater. The bright red portions appear redder with respect to the rest of Ceres. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA)

This enhanced color composite image, made with data from the framing camera aboard NASA’s Dawn spacecraft, shows the area around Ernutet Crater. The bright red portions appear redder with respect to the rest of Ceres. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA)

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NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft ready for Asteroid mission to Bennu

 

Written by Linda Herridge
NASA’s John F. Kennedy Space Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationFlorida – The first U.S. mission to travel to an asteroid, retrieve samples and return them to Earth is targeted for a September 8th launch atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

This groundbreaking mission, several years in the making, is the Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, and Security-Regolith Explorer, also known as OSIRIS-REx. It will travel to near-Earth asteroid Bennu, map its surface using 3-D laser imaging, retrieve samples from the surface and return to Earth.

The OSIRIS-REx spacecraft, enclosed in a payload fairing, is lifted Aug. 29 at Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket that is to lift OSIRIS-REx into space was stacked at SLC-41 so the spacecraft and fairing could be hoisted up and bolted to the rocket. (NASA/Dimitri Gerondidakis)

The OSIRIS-REx spacecraft, enclosed in a payload fairing, is lifted Aug. 29 at Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket that is to lift OSIRIS-REx into space was stacked at SLC-41 so the spacecraft and fairing could be hoisted up and bolted to the rocket. (NASA/Dimitri Gerondidakis)

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