On the other side of the galaxy

This is like a miracle especially if you think that it is only hours since the great Arthur Clarke died. A carbon-containing molecule has been detected for the first time on a planet outside our Solar System.

The organic compound methane was found in the atmosphere of a planet orbiting a star some 63 light years away. Water has also been found in its atmosphere, but scientists say the planet is far too hot to support life.

The discovery, unveiled in the journal Nature, is an important step towards exploring new worlds that might be more hospitable to life, they say. Methane, made up of carbon and hydrogen, is the simplest possible organic compound. Under certain circumstances, methane can play a key role in prebiotic chemistry – the chemical reactions considered necessary to form life. Scientists detected the gas in the atmosphere of a Jupiter-sized planet known as HD 189733b.

The other side of the moon Clarke dreamt of, or better the other side of the galaxy!


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