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Man not alone in universe, scientists say

By Staff

London, Jan 6 (UNI) Molecules which helped create life on earth have been found in another solar system, thus increasing the possibility of other form of life in universe.

Scientists believe they have spotted the chemicals in a disc of red dust around a star 220 light years away. It is the first time these socalled building blocks of life have been detected outside our solar system.

The dust was found by the Hubble space telescope around a young star, known as HR 4796A. It lies one thousand million million miles away in Centaurus, a constellation visible mainly from the southern hemisphere.

Dr John Debes, who led the team of US astronomers from the Carnegie Institution in Washington DC, said, ''Astronomers are just beginning to look for planets around stars much different from the Sun.'' ''HR 4796A is twice as massive, nearly twice as hot as the Sun, and 20 times more luminous. Studying this system provides new clues to understanding the different conditions under which planets form and, perhaps, life can evolve,'' Daily Mail quoted him as saying.

According to the findings, which were reported in the Astrophysical Journal Letters, the star is just eight million years old, making it a relative baby in the timescale of planets and solar systems. It is 20 times brighter than the Sun and is in the late stages of planet formation.

The dust would have been created in the collisions of comets and asteroids orbiting the star, the report said. An analysis of the dust by scientists revealed it was red.

The wavelength of the light scattered off the dust suggests it contained large organic carbon molecules called tholins. These molecules are believed to have existed on the primitive earth billions of years ago and may have created the 'biomolecules' that make up all living things.

Tholins no longer form naturally on today's earth, where they would be quickly destroyed by oxygen in the atmosphere. However, they have been detected elsewhere in the solar system including in comets and on Saturn's moon Titan, where they give the atmosphere a reddish tinge.

Many experts believe tholincarrying comets and other small clumps of dust and gas sowed the seeds of life on earth more than four billion years ago. They could be doing the same for newly formed planets orbiting HR 4796A.


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