06/14/2016: A Molecule In Space Could Help Us Understand The Origin Of Life On Earth

popular_science_chiral_2016Are your molecules lefties or righties?

There are a lot of concepts that help life exist here on Earth. One is as simple as whether a molecule is right handed or left handed. As straightforward as it is, we still don’t know how the molecules got that way. But a recent discovery of a molecule in space might help us out.

The complex molecules that exist here on our planet often come in two versions, each mirror images or enantiomers of one another. But while its ordinary on Earth, we’ve never seen these kinds of molecules anywhere else in the universe. Now, for the first time, a team of scientists at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory in Virginia, the California Institute of Technology, and Harvard University discovered one of these so-called “chiral” molecules in space. The researchers think this discovery could help explain why some chiral molecules on Earth exist more commonly as one hand than as another.

Published by .  See more at: http://www.popsci.com/molecule-in-space-could-help-us-understand-life-on-earth

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06/14/2016: Astronomers find first evidence of chiral chemistry in distant cosmic cloud

Center_of_the_Milky_Way_Galaxy_IV__CompositeAn organic (if toxic) alcohol could point the way toward finding more “handed” molecules — the kind that make up RNA, DNA, and other building blocks to life.

 To make life, our bodies require many chemicals to have a certain “handedness,” a left or right orientation called chirality that determines the behavior of those substances in our bodies. The requirement is the molecular equivalent of why sticking your left hand onto your right wrist won’t work — despite being mirror images, they are not interchangeable.  Chiral molecules are an essential building block of life. They are ubiquitous on Earth and in some comets / asteroids, but scientists have never observed them in interstellar space.Until now.

Published by .  See more at: http://www.astronomy.com/news/2016/06/astronomers-find-first-evidence-of-chiral-chemistry-in-distant-cosmic-cloud

Many more articles can be viewed at: https://www.google.com/search?hl=en&gl=us&tbm=nws&authuser=0&q=chiral+molecule+gbt

06/07/2016: Growing crops, business in WV no small potatoes

Daily_Mail_potatoes_2016What can people in West Virginia do to make the state more economically productive and diverse, particularly to overcome the loss of many of its traditional big money industries?

How about agriculture?

A crazy idea considering the rugged terrain of much of the Mountain State, but when you look further, is it such a crazy idea after all?

The Sunday Gazette-Mail featured a group of farmers working together at a place you’d least expect it, the grounds of the National Radio Astronomy Observatory at Green Bank.

Last week, farmers planted the last of six five-acre plots on a stretch of level land between the Observatory’s headquarters building and the 100-meter Green Bank Telescope with potatoes. The work, done by six teams of Pocahontas County farmers using a state-owned planting machine, is part of an effort by the West Virginia Department of Agriculture to encourage farmers to consider growing potatoes as a new cash crop.

Records show that in 1927, West Virginia’s best year for agricultural production, about 53,000 acres were devoted to potato production statewide, compared with less than 1,000 acres today.

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6/6/2016: Green Bank tour celebrates role in extraterrestrial intelligence search

Gazette_SETI_Tour_2016The first scientific search for intelligent life in the universe began in 1960 at the Green Bank Observatory, in Pocahontas County, with a four-month effort to detect interstellar radio signals from two stars in a relatively nearby constellation.

It continues today, as the observatory’s 300-foot Green Bank Telescope serves as a key component of Breakthrough Listen, a 10-year international search targeting the one million stars nearest Earth as well as the centers of the 100 galaxies closest to our Milky Way.

This summer, the Green Bank Observatory is hosting a series of behind-the-scenes tours allowing visitors to explore the Pocahontas County radio astronomy facility’s pioneering role in the search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI, for short) and learn about the key part it plays in Breakthrough Listen, the world’s most comprehensive SETI effort, involving a decade-long, $100 million probe that began in January.

Published by The Charleston Gazette.  See more at: http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20160606/GZ07/160609702#sthash.HqqJt6ea.dpuf

5/26/2016: SETI Gets an Upgrade

Siemion_Air_and_Space_2016Dan Werthimer doesn’t mean to be rude, but he’s getting ready to eavesdrop on the neighbors.

For decades, astronomers have been listening for messages sent to us—a “Hello, is anyone out there?” signal from intelligent aliens. But now Werthimer is about to get nosier; his team at the University of California at Berkeley is conducting the first search for communities on other worlds that are speaking to one another—between planets and even across star systems. And to do it, he has two of the world’s largest radio telescopes and support from a planet‑hunting optical telescope.

Thanks to a new initiative announced last July, Werthimer’s team will begin searching for extraterrestrial civilizations, using instruments with greater sensitivity and scanning across a wider range of frequencies than any SETI (search for extraterrestrial intelligence) project to date. Called Breakthrough Listen, it began earlier this year and will continue for a decade at a price tag of $100 million. “It’s a lot of money, a lot of telescope time,” says Werthimer. “We’ll be able to look at a hundred billion radio channels simultaneously. A big problem in SETI is we don’t know on what frequency ET might be transmitting, so the more channels you can listen to, the better chance you have of finding” a communication.

Published by Air & Space.  Read more: http://www.airspacemag.com/space/new-seti-search-180959126/#G7SLUp3kU2JLvsc2.99