Energy

Building Blocks Of Life A Lot More Common Than Anybody Thought

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Andrew Follett Energy and Science Reporter
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University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) scientists say they’ve found the building blocks of life orbiting a distant star.

A new UCLA study has found a white dwarf star with an atmosphere rich in carbon, nitrogen, hydrogens and oxygen — critical components of life on Earth.

“The findings indicate that some of life’s important preconditions are common in the universe,” Dr. Benjamin Zuckerman, a co-author of the research and a UCLA professor of astronomy, said in a press statement. “[Y]ou [just] need an Earth-like world in its size, mass and at the proper distance from a star like our Sun.”

Zuckerman and his colleagues studied the white dwarf using the Hubble Space Telescope. The star is about 200 light-years from our sun, located in the constellation Boötes.

This isn’t the first time scientists have found complex organic molecules that could serve as the building blocks of life in deep space.

The molecule, propylene oxide, was found near the center of our galaxy in June in an enormous star-forming cloud of dust and gas known as Sagittarius B2. This molecule is essential for biology and has been found in meteorites on Earth and within the solar system. It had never been detected before in interstellar space, and its discovery could mean that organic molecules are more common in the universe than scientists thought.

The discovery is just the latest in a long run of findings that show life on Earth may not be as unique as previously believed.

NASA announced in May that the Kepler Space Telescope found and verified 1,284 new exoplanets, or planets outside our solar system. Roughly 550 of the new exoplanets could be rocky planets like Earth based on their size. Nine of these exoplanets orbit in their stars’ “Goldilocks Zones,” the region around a star that has just the right conditions for liquid water to be found on the planet’s surface.

Another group of astronomers published a study in April which estimated that the odds of humanity being the only civilization in the universe are less than one chance in about 10 billion trillion.

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