More life molecules in space, according to reports in New Scientist 22 Oct 2005, p22 and New Scientist Space 29 July 2005. Scientists analysing data from the Spitzer Space telescope have detected carbon and nitrogen containing molecules in space that could form the building blocks of molecules found in living cells. The Spitzer telescope detects infra-red radiation and can be used to observe galaxies that are otherwise obscured by dust. Astronomer Lin Yan observed galaxies that were approximately 10 billion light years away. According to current theories this means they appear as they were 3.5 billion years after the Big Bang. A spectrometer on the Spitzer telescope detected signals typical of complex carbon containing molecules called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) in these galaxies. Yan commented: “Detecting these complex molecules such a long time ago really suggests its not crazy to think about life in another solar system or galaxy. There have been 10 billion years for things to form and evolve, and there are so many galaxies.”
The PAHs are not found in all galaxies. Yan explained, “These molecules are quite fragile – if the temperature is too high, or the radiation field is too strong, they can get destroyed.” Douglas Hudgins and colleagues at the Ames Research Centre, California have also studied the data on PAHs from the Spitzer telescope and found that most contain nitrogen. As many molecules in living cells, such as DNA, chlorophyll and haemoglobin contain nitrogen, space scientists believe this increases the chance that life exists in places other than earth.
Editorial Comment: The difference between a few PAH’s and life is not lots of time; it is lots of information and clever manipulation. Finding non-living raw materials is not proof that they became a life form any more than finding silicon sand, oil based plastics and metals proves they evolved into non-living computers. (Ref. astrobiology, astronomy, biochemistry)