Scientists Seek the Building Blocks of Life from Deep Impact - Tucson News Now

Scientists Seek the Building Blocks of Life from Deep Impact

By J.D. Wallace, KOLD News 13 Reporter

posted 7/4/05


Plenty of eyes continued to focus on Comet Tempel One little less than a day after Deep Impact made its mark.

"We just did it because we heard about the probe and impact thing so we came to see it,” said Noah Miller-Perry.

As a man-made explosion on a comet estimated at four and a half billion years old fascinated many, and pictures come back from the mission in space, scientists analyzed what the 820 pound copper probe blew out.  The radiation from that material provided answers.

"Every molecule has its frequency that it emits.  An easy way to think of it is every person has their own fingerprint, every molecule has its own fingerprint.  We know what frequencies each molecule has and so we can go to the telescope and tune to those frequencies,” said astrochemist Stefanie Milam.

Milam looked for materials that are considered to be the building blocks of life, and

Deep Impact might just have struck pay dirt.

"We believe it’s due to Hydrogen Cyanide, which is a simple organic molecule, and it’s believed to form simple sugars, such as nucleic acids that help form RNA and DNA,” Milam said.

Even those just trying to get a good look at what Deep Impact did knew that what is found could have a long-lasting affect.

"They'll find out what's in a comet and stuff.  It’s kind of interesting,” Miller-Perry said.

TheFlandrau Science Center’s public telescope is open until 3 a.m.  Comet Tempel One is visible from 9 to 11 p.m., when it sets.


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