Spaceflight Now Home



Spaceflight Now +



Premium video content for our Spaceflight Now Plus subscribers.

Results from Spitzer
Scientists present new discoveries from the Spitzer Space Telescope, including their findings of raw ingredients for life detected around young stars. (53min 03sec file)
 Play video

Spacewalk previewed
The Expedition 9 crew describes their upcoming spacewalk in Russian spacesuits, life aboard the space station and the view of Earth in this interview with Bill Harwood of CBS News. (20min 19sec file)
 Play video

Progress undocking
The Progress 13P cargo ship departs the International Space Station on May 24 carrying trash and unneeded items to burn up in the atmosphere. (2min 56sec file)
 Play video

AP interviews the crew
The Associated Press interviews the two-man Expedition 9 crew living aboard the International Space Station on May 24. (9min 36sec file)
 Play video
 More clips

Atlas launches AMC-11
The Lockheed Martin Atlas 2AS rocket launches from Cape Canaveral carryin the AMC-11 communications satellite. (4min 30sec file)
 Play video
 More clips!

Become a subscriber
More video



NewsAlert



Sign up for our NewsAlert service and have the latest news in astronomy and space e-mailed direct to your desktop.

Enter your e-mail address:

Privacy note: your e-mail address will not be used for any other purpose.



Raw ingredients for life detected around young stars
NASA NEWS RELEASE
Posted: May 27, 2004

NASA has announced new findings from the Spitzer Space Telescope, including the discovery of significant amounts of icy organic materials sprinkled throughout several "planetary construction zones," or dusty planet-forming discs, which circle infant stars.


Out of the dust, a planet is born as depicted in this artist's illustration. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/R. Hurt (SSC-Caltech)
Download larger image version here

 
These materials, icy dust particles coated with water, methanol and carbon dioxide, may help explain the origin of icy planetoids like comets. Scientists believe these comets may have endowed Earth with some of its water and many of its biogenic, life-enabling materials.

Drs. Dan Watson and William Forrest of the University of Rochester, N.Y, identified the ices. They surveyed five very young stars in the constellation Taurus, 420 light-years from Earth. Previous studies identified similar organic materials in space, but this is the first time they were seen unambiguously in the dust making up planet-forming discs.

In another finding, Spitzer surveyed a group of young stars and found intriguing evidence that one of them may have the youngest planet detected. The observatory found a clearing in the disc around the star CoKu Tau 4. This might indicate an orbiting planet swept away the disc material, like a vacuum leaving a cleared trail on a dirty carpet. The new findings reveal the structure of the gap more clearly than ever before. Because CoKu Tau 4 is only about one million years old, the possible planet would be even younger. As a comparison, Earth is approximately 4.5-billion years old.

"These early results show Spitzer will dramatically expand our understanding of how stars and planets form, which ultimately helps us understand our origins," said Dr. Michael Werner, Spitzer project scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), Pasadena, Calif., which manages the mission.


Locations of RCW 49 and Taurus star-forming regions. Credit: ESO (top), 2MASS (middle), IRAS/DIRBE (bottom)
Download larger image version here

 
Spitzer also discovered two of the farthest and faintest planet-forming discs ever observed. These discs surround two of more than 300 newborn stars uncovered for the first time in a stunning new image of the dusty stellar nursery called RCW 49. It is approximately 13,700 light-years from Earth in the constellation Centaurus.

"Preliminary data suggest all 300 or more stars harbor discs, but so far we've only looked closely at two. Both were found to have discs," said Dr. Ed Churchwell of the University of Wisconsin, Madison, Wis., principal investigator of the RCW 49 research, with Dr. Barbara Whitney of Space Science Institute, Boulder, Colo.

Planet forming, "protoplanetary," discs are a natural phase in a star's life. A star is born inside a dense envelope of gas and dust. Within this envelope, and circling the star, is a flat, dusty disc, where planets are born.

"By seeing what's behind the dust, Spitzer has shown us star and planet formation is a very active process in our galaxy," Churchwell said.

Spitzer's exquisitely sensitive infrared eyes can see planet forming discs in great detail. "Previously, scientists could study only a small sample of discs, but Spitzer is already on its way toward analyzing thousands of discs," Werner said.

Spitzer's infrared spectrograph instrument, which breaks apart infrared light to see the signatures of various chemicals, was used to observe the organic ices and the clearing within CoKu Tau 4's disc. Spitzer's infrared array camera found the new stars in RCW 49. Papers on the research will appear in the September 1, 2004, issue of the journal Astrophysical Journal Supplements.

Spaceflight Now Plus
Additional coverage for subscribers:
VIDEO: WATCH THURSDAY'S SPITZER TELESCOPE NEWS BRIEFING QT
SUBSCRIBE NOW

Mars rover collectible patch

Free shipping to U.S. addresses!

This commemorative patch celebrates NASA's Curiosity rover mission of the Mars Science Laboratory in search of clues whether the Red Planet was once hospitable to life.
 U.S. STORE
 WORLDWIDE STORE


Columbia Report
A reproduction of the official accident investigation report into the loss of the space shuttle Columbia and its crew of seven.
 Choose your store:
U.S. - U.K. - E.U. - Worldwide

Mars Panorama

DISCOUNTED! This 360 degree image was taken by the Mars Pathfinder, which landed on the Red Planet in July 1997. The Sojourner Rover is visible in the image.
 Choose your store:
U.S.

Apollo 11 Mission Report
Apollo 11 - The NASA Mission Reports Vol. 3 is the first comprehensive study of man's first mission to another world is revealed in all of its startling complexity. Includes DVD!
 Choose your store:
U.S. - U.K. - E.U. - Worldwide

Rocket DVD
If you've ever watched a launch from Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral, Vandenberg Air Force Base or even Kodiak Island Alaska, there's no better way to describe what you witnessed than with this DVD.
 Choose your store:
U.S. - U.K. - E.U. - Worldwide

Gemini 7
Gemini 7: The NASA Mission Reports covers this 14-day mission by Borman and Lovell as they demonstrated some of the more essential facts of space flight. Includes CD-ROM.
 Choose your store:
U.S. - U.K. - E.U. - Worldwide

Apollo patches
The Apollo Patch Collection: Includes all 12 Apollo mission patches plus the Apollo Program Patch. Save over 20% off the Individual price.
 Choose your store:
U.S. - U.K. - E.U. - Worldwide

Mars Rover mission patch
A mission patch featuring NASA's Mars Exploration Rover is available from our online.
 Choose your store:
U.S. - U.K. - E.U. - Worldwide

Apollo 9 DVD
On the road to the moon, the mission of Apollo 9 stands as an important gateway in experience and procedures. This 2-DVD collection presents the crucial mission on the voyage to the moon.
 Choose your store:
U.S. - U.K. - E.U. - Worldwide

An insider's view of how Apollo flight controllers operated and just what they faced when events were crucial.
 Choose your store:
U.S.

Final Shuttle Mission Patch

Free shipping to U.S. addresses!

The crew emblem for the final space shuttle mission is now available in our store. Get this piece of history!
 U.S. STORE
 WORLDWIDE STORE

STS-134 Patch

Free shipping to U.S. addresses!

The final planned flight of space shuttle Endeavour is symbolized in the official embroidered crew patch for STS-134. Available in our store!
 U.S. STORE
 WORLDWIDE STORE

Ares 1-X Patch
The official embroidered patch for the Ares 1-X rocket test flight, is available for purchase.
 U.S. STORE
 WORLDWIDE STORE

Apollo Collage
This beautiful one piece set features the Apollo program emblem surrounded by the individual mission logos.
 U.S. STORE
 WORLDWIDE STORE

Project Orion
The Orion crew exploration vehicle is NASA's first new human spacecraft developed since the space shuttle a quarter-century earlier. The capsule is one of the key elements of returning astronauts to the Moon.
 U.S. STORE


Fallen Heroes Patch Collection
The official patches from Apollo 1, the shuttle Challenger and Columbia crews are available in the store.
 U.S. STORE
 WORLDWIDE STORE

INDEX | PLUS | NEWS ARCHIVE | LAUNCH SCHEDULE
ASTRONOMY NOW | STORE

ADVERTISE

© 2014 Spaceflight Now Inc.