Space.com (October 21, 2009)
"The basic molecules required for life as we know it have been detected in a second hot gas planet beyond our solar system.
"The planet, which orbits a sun-like star about 150 light-years away in the constellation Pegasus, is not habitable but it has the same chemistry that, if found around a rocky planet in the future, could indicate a world that might support life or the presence of life.
" 'It's the second planet outside our solar system in which water, methane and carbon dioxide have been found, which are potentially important for biological processes in habitable planets,' said researcher Mark Swain of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. 'Detecting organic compounds in two exoplanets now raises the possibility that it will become commonplace to find planets with molecules that may be tied to life.'
"The first planet in which organic molecules were detected was HD 189733b, a hot, Jupiter-sized planet. The discovery was made by Swain and his colleagues in December 2008...."
If HD 189733 b sounds familiar, you've been following the Lemming - or keeping up with the news. Maybe both. I posted a micro-review of a Scientific American article on HD 189733 b and JPL's research on March 21, 2008. Methane is an organic substance, and sometimes produced by biological processes: but it occurs naturally without critters, too.
'Hot Jupiters' were not on the list of things we expected to find circling other stars, which makes them particularly interesting.
And, although both HD 189733 b and HD 209458 b are too hot to support life that runs along our lines, the presence of methane and other chemical components of living organisms in two (unlikely) places suggests that if there isn't life elsewhere in the universe, there will after we've had a chance to settle in.
From the looks of it, the building blocks for life are not at all scarce.
- "Methane in Extrasolar Planet's Atmosphere: A First"
(March 21, 2008)
Related posts, at