Thursday, September 23, 2004

:: quarks and quazars :: Beyond the sky

+ Comet Machholz, discovered by Donald Machholz this August, is "predicted to come closest to Earth on the night of Jan. 5-6, 2005, when it will be just 32 million miles (51 million kilometers) away. On the evening of Jan. 7, it will conveniently pass just a couple of degrees to the west of the famous Pleiades star cluster." Very cool. Must be neat to have a astronomical item named after you. Since the discovery is so new, there is uncertainty as to the magnitute of the comet and if it will be able to be viewed sans telescope, although they sound hopeful.

+ Body clocks 'hinder' space travel- "Researchers think the human body clock could hinder space exploration.
A team at the Imperial College London headed by Russell Foster is looking at how astronauts would cope away from Earth. Foster said: "circadian rhythm is crucial. It stops everything happening at once and co-ordinates the right things to happen at the right time"."

+ Frozen sugar at centre of Milky Way. Sounds like an ad for sweets, but this breakthrough discovery could be huge.
Astronomers have found a cloud of frozen sugar near the centre of our galaxy, the Milky Way, it was revealed yesterday.

The discovery heightens the possibility of early building blocks of life originating in interstellar space.

Molecules of a simple sugar, glycolaldehyde, were detected in a cloud of gas and dust called Sagittarius B2 about 26,000 light years away.

Observations indicated large quantities of the sugar frozen to a temperature only a few degrees above absolute zero, the point at which all molecular movement stops.

Glycolaldehyde consists of two carbon atoms, two oxygen atoms and four hydrogen atoms.

This type of molecule is known as a two-carbon sugar. Significantly, it can react with a three-carbon sugar to produce the five-carbon sugar ribose - the molecule which forms the backbone of DNA.

The discovery adds to the growing evidence that the foundations of life can be traced to chemical reactions within interstellar clouds.

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