Supernova Condensate

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The rantings of a postgrad astrochemist. Life, lunacy, academia and the science of all things very big and very small...

Invader Xan
28 posts

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  • February 26, 2009
  • 01:03 AM
  • 1,107 views

Life in the clouds?

by Invader Xan in Supernova Condensate

As a lot of people will know by now, the human race is officially going back to Jupiter and its moons. It’s currently scheduled to get there by about 2026. I’m seriously looking forward to it, myself. There’s an awful lot about our friendly neighbourhood giant that we still don’t really understand. In honour of this, I decided to take a look at a classic paper written by Carl Sagan and Edwin Salpeter on the fascinating possibility of life and potential ecologies on a hulk........ Read more »

  • January 18, 2009
  • 08:27 PM
  • 642 views

How chemists can help astrobiologists...

by Invader Xan in Supernova Condensate

Quite a puzzler in astrochemistry and astrobiology is where exactly prebiotic amino acids form. We know they can form in interstellar space. We’ve found them inside chondritic meteorites. All the ingredients exist in the interstellar medium. There have even been reports of glycine detected in interstellar space. On the other hand, those reports are still unverified. But are we really looking for the right thing…?... Read more »

  • January 10, 2009
  • 10:31 PM
  • 704 views

Extragalactic molecules!

by Invader Xan in Supernova Condensate

When I saw this paper’s title I was intrigued. When I realised what this paper was actually about, I was genuinely enthralled! A couple of months ago, I was wondering whether it would be possible to take a gamma ray burst spectrum and look for interstellar chemicals. Well, now someone has! And they’ve got the first concrete observations of molecules in a redshifted GRB host galaxy!... Read more »

J. X. Prochaska, Y. Sheffer, D.A. Perley, J. S. Bloom, L. A. Lopez, M. Dessauges-Zavadsky, H.-W. Chen, A. V. Filippenko, M. Ganeshalingam, W. Li.... (2009) The First Positive Detection of Molecular Gas in a GRB Host Galaxy. Astrophysical Journal Letters (accepted). DOI: arXiv:0901.0556v1  

  • December 30, 2008
  • 09:42 PM
  • 1,026 views

Could we help The Sun cheat death?

by Invader Xan in Supernova Condensate

Since they were first discovered in 1952, blue stragglers have baffled astronomers. Appearing strangely youthful amid their ageing brethren, many now believe blue stragglers are formed when two smaller stars merge. There is, however, one theory which is rather more… outlandish. In a fascinating paper dating back to 1990, Martin Beech suggests an alternative explanation. What if an advanced civilization, having invested so much time and effort into their home star system, decided to artifi........ Read more »

  • December 24, 2008
  • 12:42 PM
  • 1,455 views

A Simple Kind of Life

by Invader Xan in Supernova Condensate

As many an astrochemist will tell you without hesitation, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons are important molecules to study, because they’re directly relevant to the origins of life. We tend to repeat this like a mantra, and perhaps we don’t always fully appreciate the ramifications of what we’re saying. Contentious, hotly debated and under researched, the origin of life is a difficult and heavily transdisciplinary subject. It’s also a long standing fascination of mine, a........ Read more »

Pascale Ehrenfreund, Steen Rasmussen, James Cleaves, & Liaohai Chen. (2006) Experimentally Tracing the Key Steps in the Origin of Life: The Aromatic World. Astrobiology, 6(3), 490-520. DOI: 10.1089/ast.2006.6.490  

  • December 22, 2008
  • 04:02 PM
  • 1,059 views

Protonation’s what you need

by Invader Xan in Supernova Condensate

Ah, the humble proton. Simple, stable, and able to drastically affect the chemistry of other molecules — and nowhere more so than in the Interstellar Medium (ISM). H2 molecules, for instance are readily protonated in dense interstellar clouds, forming H3 , and playing a key role in the formation of hydrides like ammonia and methane. CO forms HCO , N2 forms HN2 and so on. So what about those polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (PAH) molecules I keep talking about…?... Read more »

A. Pathak, & P. J. Sarre. (2008) Protonated PAHs as carriers of diffuse interstellar bands. Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society: Letters. DOI: 10.1111/j.1745-3933.2008.00544.x  

  • December 4, 2008
  • 06:14 PM
  • 1,475 views

Could life have evolved closer than we thought?

by Invader Xan in Supernova Condensate

Traditionally, anyone seriously researching extraterrestrial life has tended to ignore red dwarfs. Typically a disproportionately low number of them have been included in SETI searches, for instance. They’re troublesome, ill-tempered little things which like to randomly flare up for seemingly no reason. Small, cool and difficult to spot, relatively few red dwarfs can even be seen from Earth because they’re so faint. Their violent tantrums cause huge flares far more powerful than anyt........ Read more »

Jill C. Tarter, Peter R. Backus, Rocco L. Mancinelli, Jonathan M. Aurnou, Dana E. Backman, Gibor S. Basri, Alan P. Boss, Andrew Clarke, Drake Deming, Laurance R. Doyle.... (2007) A Reappraisal of The Habitability of Planets around M Dwarf Stars. Astrobiology, 7(1), 30-65. DOI: 10.1089/ast.2006.0124  

  • November 30, -1
  • 12:00 AM
  • 2,128 views

How to spot exo-Earths...

by Invader Xan in Supernova Condensate

It seems like we’re not going to stop discovering new exoplanets anytime soon. Around one sixth of all exoplanets currently known can be observed transiting their star’s disk. Given that transits are precisely what NASA’s Kepler mission is going to spend the next three years looking for, that number is certainly set to increase over the coming months. But with exoplanet transits comes a unique opportunity to study them…... Read more »

Pallé, E., Osorio, M., Barrena, R., Montañés-Rodríguez, P., & Martín, E. (2009) Earth’s transmission spectrum from lunar eclipse observations. Nature, 459(7248), 814-816. DOI: 10.1038/nature08050  

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