New scientific papers show comet 67P contains the building blocks of life

scientists discover building blocks of life on comet 67p welcome to a node full image 2
The European Space Agency
Just a few short weeks after scientists claimed comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko might house an abundance of microbial alien life, a newly published scientific paper shows that the Philae lander also harvested molecules packed with the building blocks of life. Discovery of such building blocks — i.e. organic molecules like acetone, acetamide, methyl isocyanate, and propionaldehyde — doesn’t necessarily guarantee life on other planets exists, but it does shed significant light on the study of life’s genesis here on Earth.

Philae stumbled across this incredible discovery while conducting a routine molecule-collection experiment during its rough initial landing, as well as where it finally came to rest. By utilizing its onboard Cometary Sampling and Composition (COSAC)  instrument, the lander gathered a series of molecules some 10 kilometers off the surface of 67P. Back on Earth, Max Planck Institue for Solar System Research scientist Fred Goesmann (and several of his colleagues) identified 16 different organic compounds after analyzing the samples with COSAC’s mass spectrometer. What’s perhaps most intriguing is that several of the discovered compounds have yet to show up on any other studied comet in the past.

agilkia_landing_site-970x647-c-640x0

The discoveries don’t end with just COSAC and Goesmann’s findings, either. While conducting a separate study, fellow scientist Ian Wright put another one of Philae’s onboard devices to use (this time it’s one called a Ptolemy instrument) to take readings of the ambient gas surrounding the lander. The instrument recorded traces of carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, and water vapor, while also reading an especially high level of the formaldehyde-related compound, polyoxymethylene.

While these findings represent a substantial step forward in terms of what’s been found on comets in the past, Goesmann does point out each of these molecules found on 67P can be formed abiologically. That is, the formation of each compound could be created in the absence of living organisms, perhaps by way of UV irradiation and radiolysis of ice from solar cosmic rays. Still, the scientists also acknowledge that most of the compounds found on 67P are predecessors of DNA-forming nucleobases like amino acids and sugars, so it’s entirely possible that life on Earth could have been “seeded” by a comet or meteor millions of years ago.

“I think this absolutely bears on origin of life studies,” scientist Ian Wright tells Gizmodo. “I believe there are abiological compounds in comets that, if they were to have rained down on the surface of the Earth, and given the right conditions, could have helped life get started.”

Though it may be some time before significant results come from Philae’s recent findings, it’s still incredibly fascinating to see the kind of progress made towards uncovering one of mankind’s greatest mysteries.

Emerging Tech

SpaceX makes rocketry look easy, sticks yet another Falcon 9 landing

SpaceX is due to perform its latest Falcon 9 rocket launch and landing on November 15 from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida. Here's how you can watch the proceedings live.
Home Theater

The best movies on Netflix in November, from 'Buster Scruggs’ to ‘Dracula’

Save yourself from hours wasted scrolling through Netflix's massive library by checking out our picks for the streamer's best movies available right now, whether you're into explosive action, witty humor, or anything else.
Movies & TV

The best shows on Netflix, from 'The Haunting of Hill House’ to ‘The Good Place’

Looking for a new show to binge? Lucky for you, we've curated a list of the best shows on Netflix, whether you're a fan of outlandish anime, dramatic period pieces, or shows that leave you questioning what lies beyond.
Emerging Tech

Stronger than steel, thinner than paper, graphene could be the future of tech

Since its discovery, graphene has set the research world on fire. What exactly is it, though, and what could it mean for the future of tech? Here's everything you need to know about what could be the next supermaterial to take center stage.
Movies & TV

The best movies on Amazon Prime right now (November 2018)

Prime Video provides subscribers with access to a host of fantastic films, but sorting through the catalog can be an undertaking. Luckily, we've done the work for you. Here are the best movies on Amazon Prime Video right now.
Emerging Tech

The best drone photos from around the world

Most of today's drones come equipped with high-end cameras, which are quickly revolutionizing the world of aerial photography as we know it. Here are some of the best drone photos from around the world.
Emerging Tech

In a weighty decision, scientists prepare to redefine the kilogram

Metrologists are meeting at the General Conference on Weights and Measures in Versailles to vote on whether to redefine the kilogram as a constant that can be observed in the natural world.
Photography

See the National Forests like never before in these awe-inspiring drone videos

What's the difference between a National Park and a National Forest? Drones. With no ban on drones in National Forests -- at least, not yet -- filmmakers have a way to capture the immensity of these locations with stunning results.
Emerging Tech

Google’s balloon internet is coming to Kenya in 2019

In order to bring the internet to those who lack it, a company called Loon is launching balloons into the stratosphere. From more than 12 miles up, these balloons beam connectivity over a large area on the ground.
Emerging Tech

Hikers missing on Mount Fuji could soon find a drone buzzing above their heads

Hikers who go missing while climbing Japan's highest mountain could soon find a drone buzzing above their head. A new system using the flying machines has been set up on Mount Fuji for future search-and-rescue missions.
Emerging Tech

Elon Musk receives FCC approval to launch over 7,500 satellites into space

Not surprisingly, SpaceX is thinking big with Starlink, its space-based global broadband network. This week, the company received FCC approval to launch 7,518 satellites into a low-Earth orbit for its satellite internet service.
Cars

The world’s first 3D-printed titanium wheels are so intricate they look fake

HRE Performance Wheels and GE Additive have teamed up to create the world's first 3D-printed titanium wheels. They are not only impressively durable, but extremely lightweight as well.
Emerging Tech

Of all the vape pens in the world, these 5 are the best

Vaping concentrates has become significantly more popular, especially among those that use cannabis for medicinal purposes. But don’t use just any vape pen: we found these five devices to be our favorites in 2018.
Emerging Tech

DJI Mavic 2 Pro vs Mavic 2 Zoom: What’s the real difference?

DJI's Mavic 2 series drones are ready to fly -- but which one is right for you? The Mavic 2 Pro and Mavic 2 Zoom are nearly identical save for their cameras. Here's what you need to know about these powerful new UAVs.