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Old 07-08-2011, 01:25 PM
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Default Hydrogen peroxide found in space

"Hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) is a key molecule for both astronomers and chemists. Its formation is closely linked to two other familiar molecules, oxygen and water, which are critical for life. Because much of the water on our planet is thought to have originally formed in space, scientists are keen to understand how it is created".


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Molecules of hydrogen peroxide have been found for the first time in interstellar space. The discovery gives clues about the chemical link between two molecules critical for life: water and oxygen. On Earth, hydrogen peroxide plays a key role in the chemistry of water and ozone in our planet’s atmosphere, and is familiar for its use as a disinfectant or to bleach hair blonde. Now it has been detected in space by astronomers using the ESO-operated APEX telescope in Chile.

An international team of astronomers made the discovery with the Atacama Pathfinder Experiment telescope (APEX), situated on the 5000-metre-high Chajnantor plateau in the Chilean Andes. They observed a region in our galaxy close to the star Rho Ophiuchi, about 400 light-years away. The region contains very cold (around -250 degrees Celsius), dense clouds of cosmic gas and dust, in which new stars are being born. The clouds are mostly made of hydrogen, but contain traces of other chemicals, and are prime targets for astronomers hunting for molecules in space. Telescopes such as APEX, which make observations of light at millimetre- and submillimetre-wavelengths, are ideal for detecting the signals from these molecules.

Now, the team has found the characteristic signature of light emitted by hydrogen peroxide, coming from part of the Rho Ophiuchi clouds.

“We were really excited to discover the signatures of hydrogen peroxide with APEX. We knew from laboratory experiments which wavelengths to look for, but the amount of hydrogen peroxide in the cloud is just one molecule for every ten billion hydrogen molecules, so the detection required very careful observations,” says Per Bergman, astronomer at Onsala Space Observatory in Sweden. Bergman is lead author of the study, which is published in the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics.

Hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) is a key molecule for both astronomers and chemists. Its formation is closely linked to two other familiar molecules, oxygen and water, which are critical for life. Because much of the water on our planet is thought to have originally formed in space, scientists are keen to understand how it is created [1].

Hydrogen peroxide is thought to form in space on the surfaces of cosmic dust grains — very fine particles similar to sand and soot — when hydrogen (H) is added to oxygen molecules (O2). A further reaction of the hydrogen peroxide with more hydrogen is one way to produce water (H2O). This new detection of hydrogen peroxide will therefore help astronomers better understand the formation of water in the Universe.

“We don’t understand yet how some of the most important molecules here on Earth are made in space. But our discovery of hydrogen peroxide with APEX seems to be showing us that cosmic dust is the missing ingredient in the process,” says Bérengère Parise, head of the Emmy Noether research group on star formation and astrochemistry at the Max-Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Germany, and a co-author of the paper.

To work out just how the origins of these important molecules are intertwined will need more observations of Rho Ophiuchi and other star-forming clouds with future telescopes such as the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) — and help from chemists in laboratories on Earth.

APEX is a collaboration between the Max-Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy (MPIfR), the Onsala Space Observatory (OSO) and ESO. The telescope is operated by ESO.

Notes
[1] The new discovery of hydrogen peroxide may also help astronomers understand another interstellar mystery: why oxygen molecules are so hard to find in space. It was only in 2007 that oxygen molecules were first discovered in space, by the satellite Odin.
http://www.eso.org/public/news/eso1123/
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Old 07-08-2011, 05:22 PM
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Oh, good.

Better dental hygeine in space. :P

In all seriousness though, this is really cool. It means that we are starting to understand how habitable worlds might come about.
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Old 07-08-2011, 07:51 PM
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Very interesting, makes me wonder how much there is
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Old 07-08-2011, 11:21 PM
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A little off-topic, but when I saw that photo I just had to sit and stare at it for a while. Beautiful.
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Old 07-08-2011, 11:30 PM
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Originally Posted by Empty Glass View Post
A little off-topic, but when I saw that photo I just had to sit and stare at it for a while. Beautiful.
^ This

So basically wherever Hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) may be there MAY be a chance of habitable life occurring there?

Now this, is truly awesome.
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Old 07-09-2011, 02:00 AM
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That's awesome (both the finding and the picture). It makes one wonder, maybe theres more potentialy habitable planets out there than we first thought. Many planets/large moons probably form with all the key ingredients for life, all that is missing is a spot in the Goldilocks zone or some tidal heating in the case of a moon like Europa.
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Old 07-09-2011, 02:46 AM
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Space is littered with organic compounds. I guess it's cool every time we find something specific, but it's nothing new.
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Old 07-10-2011, 09:39 AM
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Woah, that's really cool.

And the image is just beautiful.
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Old 07-10-2011, 12:42 PM
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Hmm, bottle-blonde Na'vi.
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Old 07-10-2011, 06:22 PM
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So what is it that really differ normal water and this? Does it look the same?
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Old 07-11-2011, 06:30 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tsyal Makto View Post
That's awesome (both the finding and the picture). It makes one wonder, maybe theres more potentialy habitable planets out there than we first thought. Many planets/large moons probably form with all the key ingredients for life, all that is missing is a spot in the Goldilocks zone or some tidal heating in the case of a moon like Europa.
Even the specific temperature isn't needed. It is for human-like carbon-based life, but a hotter or colder (or toxic, or high/low pressure) environment to some degree is still liveable for other life even before we get onto other forms such as silicon or ammonia-base. Finding a planet suitable for humans to live on and one capable of supporting any kind of life are different things.
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Old 07-17-2011, 02:06 PM
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(Is thread resurrecting OK here? The rules don't say anything about it.)
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Originally Posted by LOVEavatar View Post
So what is it that really differ normal water and this? Does it look the same?
According to Wikipedia, it's slightly stickier than water, but still transparent. Apparently it's light blue in high concentrations, but don't touch it, since at that concentration, it'll happily dissolve your skin.
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Old 07-17-2011, 02:57 PM
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Thread resurrection is fine when you're adding a new point, but in this case the thread hasn't even been inactive for any more than a week

H2O2 contains the same basic elements as water, but isn't much like it at all chemically.
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Old 07-17-2011, 03:32 PM
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How do they actually know what's there without being there? It could be something totally different than what they think but showing similar traits as what they think it is. Scientists have said they discovered so much in the galaxy without even being there and with just a telescope. I would like to believe all this but I'd really prefer to have some solid evidence.

The picture is awesome though, as mentioned.
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Old 07-17-2011, 03:48 PM
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It can be identified by its emission spectrum (the specific frequencies of light that it produces when excited by a photon) with a sufficiently powerful telescope.

Emission spectrum - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
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