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Universe consisting of fuzzy dark matter galaxies visualized by researchers

Astronomers keen to understand the reasons for death of galaxies in the universe

Galaxies are getting killed in the extreme regions of the universe as their star formation is being closed and researchers are intrigued to know the reasons behind it. A new program termed as the Virgo Environment Traced in Carbon Monoxide survey (VERTICO) is investigating how the galaxies are being killed. 

Toby Brown, the principal investigator of VERTICO led a team of 30 experts using the Atacama Large Millimeter Array (ALMA) for mapping the molecular hydrogen gas, the fuel from which new stars are created, at a very high resolution in 51 galaxies in the Virgo Cluster, the nearest galaxy cluster. 

ALMA was commissioned in 2013 at a price of USD 1.4 billion. It is an array of connected radio dishes at a height of 5000 metres in Atacama Desert, Northern Chile. This is an international cooperation between the United States, Canada, Japan, Taiwan, Chile, South Korea and Europe. This is the largest astronomical project that is ground based and is the most advanced millimetre wavelength telescope to have been constructed. This is best suited to study cold gas clouds from which new stars are created that cannot be observed by visible light. Programs such as VERTICO are designed to address the issues leading to a major breakthrough in this domain. 

The location of galaxies in the universe and their interaction with surroundings are major influences in their ability to form stars. But it is unknown how this environment rules on the life and death of the galaxies. 

The galaxy clusters are the most massive environments in universe which contain many hundreds of galaxies. The presence of high gravitational forces results in high acceleration of the galaxies, superheating the plasma to extreme temperatures. In these dense interiors, galaxies interact with their surroundings that can kill their star formation. The main focus of VERTICO is to understand the mechanisms that remove star formation. 

When galaxies fall through clusters, the intergalactic plasma can remove the gas in a very violent process known as ram pressure stripping. Clearing the fuel for star formation can result in killing the galaxy where no new stars are formed. The high temperature in clusters can stop the cooling and condensing of hot gas onto galaxies. Here the gas is slowly consumed as stars are formed leading to a gradual shut down in formation of stars known as strangulation. 

These processes vary a lot but each leaves behind a unique imprint on the star forming gas of the galaxy. VERTICO aims to bring together a complete picture from each of these processes building on the previous work to understand the impact of environment on evolution of galaxy. 

As Virgo Cluster is the nearest massive cluster, we can capture snapshots of the different stages of the galaxies. As a result, a complete picture of how star formation is shut in the cluster galaxies can be built. Virgo Cluster galaxies have been observed at nearly all wavelengths of the spectrum the observations of the star forming gas along with the required sensitivity do not exist as of now. 

VERTICO aims to generate high resolution maps of the molecular hydrogen gas and understand the exact quenching mechanisms, ram pressure stripping responsible for killing the galaxies. This will improve the understanding of the evolution of galaxies in the densest places of the universe. 

 

Mouse brain tissue kept alive for several weeks in laboratory

Mouse brain tissue kept alive for several weeks in laboratory

Researchers from Japan have kept small portions of mouse brain tissue alive and viable for a period of 25 days, isolating in a culture. This has highly increased the timeline in which the isolated brain tissue can keep the functions intact extending days to weeks. This can affect the research in therapeutic drugs in a positive way. The findings have been published in the Analytical Sciences journal.

The key to success was a new technique that combines a special kind of membrane with an improved microfluidic device. Microfluidic devices use small channels for delivery of fluid into tissues and are better than the normal culture dishes specially for ex vivo tissue experiments. They can also be customized highly and mimic certain kinds of cell behaviors. They also require small volume samples thus making it easy to study the cell interactions. 

However, only a few days is not sufficient to understand how body systems react to various things. The main problem is to keep a balance. Tissues dry quickly so the system has to be kept moist along with nutrients in a wet culture medium. Too much moisture prevents cells to exchange gases which the tissue needs thus drowning it finally. This problem had to be tackled by the researchers. 

This device has a semi-permeable microfluidic channel that is surrounded by an artificial membrane and solid walls. These are made from polydimethylsiloxane, a polymer mainly used in microfluidic devices. The tissue does not sit in the bath consisting of the culture medium but instead, the fluid circulates through the channel, passing by the membrane to keep the tissues most while still maintaining the exchange of gases between cells. 

Nobutoshi Ota, a biochemist at RIKEN Center for Biosystems Dynamics Research said that the medium flow was difficult to be controlled as the microchannel between the porous membrane and PDMS walls were not normal. The team got success after repeated trials and modifications to the membrane while adjusting the flow rates of the inlet and outlet.

A small part of the brain named suprachiasmatic nucleus(SCN)  was used which is responsible for keeping the circadian and biological rhythms intact in mammals. Neuronal cells in SCN exchange information by keeping the motion of peptides and molecules between cells intact. This is ideal for studying cell interactions. 

The mice from where the SCNs were harvested had been edited genetically such that the circadian rhythm in the brain was connected to the production of a fluorescent protein indicating if everything was working properly. 

The fluorescence was active for 25 days compared to that of a normal culture dish where after 10 hours the activity control reduced by 6 percent. The experiment lasted for only 25 days since it was the cutoff time for this experiment. It could have lasted well beyond 100 days. 

Researchers believe that this can also be used for remaining organ tissues with the possibility for human organs that are grown in the laboratory. This will improve the research in organogenesis by culturing and observation which is needed for the growth of organs and tissue. 

Journal Reference: Analytical Sciences

Researchers awarded the Nobel Prize in Medicine for their discovery of cells adapting to low oxygen

Researchers awarded the Nobel Prize in Medicine for their discovery of cells adapting to low oxygen

The Nobel Assembly has awarded the 2019 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine to William Kaelin, Sir Peter Ratcliffe, and Gregg Semenza for their discoveries of the ways in which cells sense and adapt to the availability of oxygen.

The molecular switch that helps our cells to adjust to lowering oxygen levels was discovered by the three researchers. This is necessary because it offers a hypoxic reaction when the oxygen levels change i.e. the change when altitude changes, when exercising or when getting a cut.

There are various ways by which our body handles this such as forming new blood vessels, increase of blood cell production, cells adapting to certain metabolic changes. An example of the latter situation is the production of lactic acid in muscle cells during heavy exercise. The energy captured in food is released by the cells using oxygen in a reaction called aerobic respiration. Cells can also perform anaerobic respiration to avoid using oxygen but this is not sustainable as well as inefficient in the long term for humans. The three Nobel laureates and their colleagues discovered this ability to switch from one mode to the other.

It is known that the increase in the erythropoietin hormone (EPO) is produced by the kidneys in low-oxygen conditions and in anemic people. Semenza, working at Johns Hopkins University demonstrated that the increase in EPO which stimulates the production of red blood cells is stimulated by a specific gene known as hypoxia response element or HRE.

HIF-1α is one of the proteins produced by the gene found to be oxygen sensitive which disappears in the abundance of oxygen. The cells were more likely to show symptoms of hypoxia which lack the von Hippel-Lindau gene (connected to cancer). This was discovered by William Kaelin and his team from the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.

A relation between VHL and HIF-1α was created by Ratcliffe and his group from Oxford University and the Francis Crick Institute. They figured out the molecular details of the working of these mechanisms and also that the protein cannot be destroyed without the gene. From general metabolism and exercise response to embryo development and the functioning of the immune system, HIF-1α plays very crucial roles. It also affects conditions like anemia, cancer, strokes, and heart attacks. At present, EPO is being studied as a potential method to fight against the cancer cells by preventing them access to oxygen and nutrients.

Increase in global temperatures by 2°C could result in melting of Antarctic ice sheets increasing the sea levels by 20 meters

Increase in global temperatures by 2°C could result in melting of Antarctic ice sheets increasing the sea level by 20 meters

During the Pliocene geological epoch, three million years ago, Earth faced a rise in temperature. The latest research funded by the Marsden Fund involving researchers from the Antarctic Research Centre, Waikato University and other nations has found that one-third of the ice sheet melted in Antarctica during this period causes a rise in current sea level by 20 meters in the centuries to come. 

Past changes in sea level were measured by drilling of cores at the Whanganui Basin in New Zealand. It contains marine sediments of the highest resolution in the entire planet. Then a record of worldwide change in the sea-level was constructed with much more precision than previously estimated.

During the Pliocene period, the concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere were more than 400 ppm and the temperature of Earth was two Celsius higher than pre-industrial times. Warming exceeding two celsius might lead to widespread melting in Antarctica dragging the future of the planet back to three million years before. 

Worldwide protests under the hashtag #FridaysForFuture were organized under the leadership of Greta Thunberg as people have realized the urgency to keep the levels of global warming below that of the target of two degrees Celsius set by the Paris Agreement. She criticized the United Nations for not acting on the evidence provided by the scientific community. 

The current rate of worldwide emissions might take us back to the Pliocene period within 2030 thereby passing the target of the Paris Agreement. A pressing question is how fast would the sea levels rise. As per a special report on oceans and cryosphere by  IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) polar ice caps and glaciers are losing mass at an alarming rate, making it difficult to constrain the contribution of Antarctic ice sheets to a future rise in sea level. Following the current trend of emissions, the global sea level is likely to rise by 1.2 meters by the end of the century with an upper limit of two meters. 

In 2015, sediment cores deposited during the Pliocene, preserved under Whanganui Basin were drilled. Timothy Naish, working for 30 years in this area detected more than 50 fluctuations in the worldwide sea level in the last 3.5 million years in the history of the planet. Sea levels changed in response to the climate cycles also known as Milankovitch cycles. These are caused due to long-term changes in the orbit of the Earth every 20,000, 40,000 and 100,000 years. 

Sea levels are estimated to have been varied by several meters but the exact number has been difficult to obtain due to the deformation processes of Earth and the cycles’ incomplete nature. In the research, a theoretical relationship between particle size carried by waves on the continental shelf and the depth till seabed were used. This was then applied to 800 meters of drill core and outcrop that represented sediment sequences spanning a period of 2.5 to 3.3 million years before. 

Fluctuations in the global sea level in the Pliocene were between five to twenty-five meters. This figure is adjusted to the local tectonic land movements and regional changes in the sea level due to gravitational and crustal changes also termed as PlioSeaNZ sea-level record. 

During the Pliocene period, the geography of the continents, oceans, and size of polar ice sheets was similar to the present times, with an ice sheet on Greenland in the warmest times. Melting of this ice sheet would lead from five to 25 meters of the rise in sea level at the Whanganui Basin. 90 percent of heat from global warming has gone to the ocean, mainly to the Southern Ocean on the margins of the ice sheet at Antarctica. 

Deepwater upwelling in addition to entering ice shelf cavities is observed around Antarctica now. The ice sheet is thinning the fastest around the Amundsen Sea of West Antarctica, where maximum ocean heating is observed. One-third of the ice sheet of Antarctica equalling nearly 20 meters of the rise in sea level is situated below the sea level which can collapse from ocean heating. 

Thus if global temperatures are allowed to rise more than two degrees celsius, huge portions of the ice sheet could get melted in the coming times, changing the entire shoreline of the world. 

Hacker claims access to 218 million accounts of one of the most popular games

Hacker claims access to 218 million accounts of one of the most popular games

A hacker going by the name Gnosticplayers has claimed to obtain access records of 218 million players of Words with Friends which includes names, email and login IDs, hashed passwords, Facebook IDs and phone numbers. If a user has signed up for Words with Friends as recent as last month, then it is best to change the password as soon as possible since there lies a possibility of the data being stolen and misused. 

Cracking a hashed password can be very simple if it is a commonly used term or a simple word or if the original encryption is weak. Thus it is considered a best practice to change the passwords on remaining social accounts where the same email address and password are used. More damage can be caused in these sites than just attacking a simple game like Words with Friends. Security experts thus advice to use different passwords and login details for various social media applications and websites. Any breach of data on one application does not affect any of the remaining ones. 

Zynga, the developer of Words with Friends said that they discovered some player account information to be accessed by external hackers. They initiated immediate investigation along with the assistance of leading forensic firms and the support of law enforcement. 

As the world goes more and more digital, the threat of such attacks increases and the users are often left vulnerable since it is their data which is being tampered with. Millions of user credentials are being leaked out every year even with big giants such as Facebook. 

However, there are certain tips to prevent these damages. One of them includes using unique and long passwords for every account. Using password managers can also help so that you need not remember every password. It is also advised to use the advantage of two-factor authentication wherever provided. Most major accounts including Google, Facebook, Apple support this. Besides the password, this method requires entering the unique code sent to the user’s mobile number in every login attempt. 

Users should also delete their old accounts which they decide not to use anymore. People often uninstall the application and forget but it does not end there. The user should delete their entire account information from the application or contact the developer if such an option is not provided. If all of these practices are followed, then it is highly unlikely for a user to have his/her information compromised. We should learn to protect our data and keep ourselves safe. 

Astronomers detect three supermassive black holes at the center of three colliding galaxies

Astronomers detect three supermassive black holes at the center of three colliding galaxies

Three supermassive black holes (SMBHs) glowing in x-ray emissions have been identified by astronomers at the center of three colliding galaxies a billion light-years away from Earth. All three black holes are active galactic nuclei(AGN), consuming material. This finding may clarify a long-standing issue in astrophysics and black hole mergers known as “final parsec problem”. The study appears in The Astrophysical Journal.

Researchers detected the three SMBHs with the data from several telescopes, Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS,) the Chandra X-ray Observatory, and the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE)A nearly unbelievably astronomical event, the fusion of three galaxies may play a crucial role in how the most massive black holes expand over time.

Ryan Pfeifle from George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia, the paper’s first author said that they found this incredible system through their selection technique while they were only looking for black hole pairs. He also added that this is the most powerful evidence found for such a triple system of active supermassive black holes. It is very challenging to locate triple black hole systems since they are wrapped in gas and dust. It took several telescopes functioning in different parts of the electromagnetic spectrum and also the work with researchers to detect these black holes.

Co-author Shobita Satyapal, also belonging to George Mason said that dual and triple black holes are extremely rare but such systems are actually a natural outcome of galaxy mergers, through which galaxies grow. This triple-merger was first spotted in visible light by the SDSS and only through a citizen science project named Galaxy Zoo the system of colliding galaxies was detected. The system was in a state of galaxy merger glowing in the infrared as seen by the WISE when more than one black holes were expected to be feeding.

Researchers shifted to the Chandra Observatory and the Large Binocular Telescope (LBT) for confirmation as Sloan and WISE data were fascinating clues. Chandra observations revealed bright x-ray sources in the galactic centers where SMBHs are expected to detect. Chandra and Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array (NuSTAR) satellite of NASA discovered more shreds of evidence showing the presence of SMBHs and the existence of large amounts of gas and dust near one of them. It was expected in merging of black holes. Spectral evidence received by optical light data from SDSS and  LBT shows that these are characteristics of the feeding SMBHs.

Christina Manzano-King, co-author from the University of California, Riverside said that optical spectra include plenty of information about a galaxy which is frequently used to detect active accreting supermassive black holes and can tell about their influence on the inhabitant galaxies. Pfeifle said that they have found a new method of identifying triple supermassive black holes using these major observatories as each telescope gives them a distinct idea about these systems. They expect to extend their work to find more triples using the same method.

The final parsec problem is a theoretical problem that is fundamental to our understanding of binary black hole mergers that states that the enormous orbital energy of two approaching black holes stops them from merging. They can get separated by a few light-years, then the merging process stables.

The hyperbolic trajectories of two initially approaching black hole carry them right past each other. The two holes catapult the stars as they interact with them in their proximity transferring a fraction of their orbital energy to a star every time. The energy of the black holes gets reduced by the emission of gravitational waves. The two black holes finally slow down and approach each other more closely shedding enough orbital energy finally getting within just a few parsecs of each other. More matter is discharged via sling-shotting as they come closer. As a result, for the black holes, no more matter is left to interact with and shed more orbital energy. The merging process halts.

Astronomers know that strong gravitational waves are responsible for black hole mergers.LIGO (Laser Interferometry Gravitational-Wave Observatory) discovers a black hole merger almost every week. The final parsec problem is about how they merge with each other finally. Researchers think that a third black hole like seen in this system could give the push needed for the black holes to get merged. Nearly 16% of supermassive black hole pairs in colliding galaxies are expected to interact with a third supermassive black hole before they merge.

The challenge is that gravitational waves produced during merging would be too low-frequency for LIGO or the VIRGO observatory to detect. Researchers may have to depend on future observatories like LISA, ESA/NASA’s Laser Interferometer Space Antenna to detect those waves. LISA is better-equipped than LIGO or VIRGO to detect merging of giant and massive black holes as it can detect lower frequency gravitational waves.

Reference: The Astrophysical Journal.

Soybean cyst nematode and egg

Researchers discover nematode with three sexes in Mono Lake

Mono Lake in California is a hostile location for the majority of life forms similar to the Antarctic deserts or the deepest parts of the sea. Only saline shrimp and diving flies can adapt to its super-salty waters apart from bacteria and algae.
Recently, eight new species of the microscopic worm have been discovered in the lake by researchers from the California Institute of Technology and it turns out one of them is a bit different.

The team reported that Auanema sp. which is one of the newly-discovered species of nematode has three different sexes. It can also endure a dosage of arsenic 500 times more than the human limit.

Nematodes are usually classified into males and hermaphrodites but Auanema sp. also has female worms. Moreover, researchers have noticed other fascinating sex characteristics such as the arrangement of genital papillae in males of Auanema sp. in the genus. This microscopic worm also gives birth to their offspring, which is unique in the egg-laying nematode world.

Scientists think that the peculiar characteristics of the worm essential for it to remain alive in the extremely alkaline waters of Mono Lake. Thus its extreme features are not a coincidence. Pei-Yin Shih said these extremophiles can teach a lot about dealing with stress. Their study reveals the number of details left to learn about how these 1,000-celled animals have managed to survive in such conditions.

The researchers found a likewise high arsenic resistance among two sister species while comparing the strange new species of the nematode to others in the same genus. There lies another reason for this surprising tolerance because none of these creatures lived in environments with high arsenic levels.

The authors said that previous Auanema species were separated from rich soils and dung containing high phosphate concentrations. Also, it is possible that adaptation to high phosphate levels in the environment could lead to increased arsenic resistance since arsenic absorption occurs adventitiously via phosphate transporters. Nematodes might be pre-adapted to life being extremophile. Their genetic resiliency and flexibility make it easier for them to live in places like Mono Lake. Only two other species had been found which is three times saltier than sea with an alkaline pH greater than baking soda. Thus, the discovery of eight more species was not a surprise.

Nematodes are the most abundant animal on Earth thus having a high probability of even survive in Mono Lake.
Researchers from Caltech segregated nematodes from across the lake and found several niches over the period of two years in which these nematodes were prospering. They included microbe grazers, parasites, and predators.

The authors concluded that nematodes are the superior animals of Mono Lake in species richness. The phylogenetic study tells that the nematodes developed from several colonization incidents, which is remarkable, given the recent history of Mono Lake’s extreme conditions.

There are approximately 57 billion nematodes for every human on Earth so these creatures can start living in the most extreme places in no time. Tullis Onstott, geoscientist told that it’s good to find one more place with nematodes and nothing much else. These creatures might still be living in the places with absolutely nothing else.

Journal Reference: Current Biology

DNA structure

New evidence of forces responsible for separation of DNA discovered

According to a piece of new evidence, the force which holds the DNA might also be responsible for change of shape so that its repair, gene shuffling and copying can take place. The iconic double helix structure of our DNA was discovered back in 1950. It has a structure similar to that of a twisted ladder in which the nitrogen base pairs in the middle are held by the hydrogen bonds. The findings appear in the Proceedings in the National Academy of Sciences. 

These bonds are considered as a “fundamental paradigm” because of their role in holding the DNA together. However, apart from this, one important consideration is that they are water-repelling or hydrophobic. 

Replication of DNA occurs with the help of many enzymes, in which DNA molecules are essentially unzipped by enzymes by the removal of hydrogen bonds. But this might not be the only way to do it. Scientists from the Chalmers University of Technology, Sweden have tested the DNA in an increased hydrophobic environment where they found that the water-repelling force can also be used for unraveling it. It loses its structure in a water-repelling environment when a solution of polyethylene glycol is added which is a semi-hydrophobic solution. 

Bobo Feng, lead author, and the chemical engineer said that the DNA is protected by the cells and not exposed to the hydrophobic environments that might have harmful molecules. But for its use, the DNA has to be opened up. It is kept in a water solution most of the time but the environment changes to a hydrophobic one when the DNA has to be edited, copied or repaired. 

Steven Brenner, a NASA molecular biophysicist said that although this is an important discovery of a new technique of melting the DNA for its repair, it has not been covered accurately by the media. The results do not suggest that hydrogen bonds are not important for the formation of DNA while the hydrophobic forces are. This is not a new idea as models considering hydrophobic interactions in the DNA date back to the 1990s. Researchers in 1997 tested the idea that only hydrogen bonds are sufficient to keep the double helix of DNA together. It was confirmed by a later study in 2004 that hydrogen bonding was not necessary for the stability of base pairs. A 2017 study revealed that cells are not affected by the lack of complementary hydrogen bonds as the synthetic bases are translated with the help of only hydrophobic forces. 

Floyd Romesberg, lead author of the 2017 study and a biochemist said that complementary hydrogen bonds might be considered the main definitions of DNA and RNA however there are other forces that can take part in the processes of information retrieval and storage. It often occurs that the biases of the chemist separating the molecules get reflected in the analysis of the model rather than the molecules themselves. Benner feels that self-explanations can convince us to understand what is happening if the models allow us to actually make things. 

Currently, both the concepts of hydrogen-bonding and hydrophobicity help us to make advances in human medicine besides powering NASA’s search for extraterrestrial organisms. 

Feng said that it was not surprising that this behavior was not identified to date as DNA was never placed in a hydrophobic environment. 

Journal Reference:  PNAS  (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America)

Researchers discover one of the largest ever flying reptiles in Canada

Researchers discover one of the largest ever flying reptiles in Canada

Several million years ago, in the place we now know as Canada, there was a flying reptile of the size of an airplane. This species of pterosaur has been recently identified and it is one of the largest flying animals discovered to date. It is named Cryodrakon boreas and it had a wingspan of nearly two giraffes. The study appears in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology.

This enormous beast could grow till lengths of 32 feet wing tip to wing tip and it lived in the Cretaceous period nearly 77 million years ago. It existed with dinosaurs such as Panoplosaurus and Hadrosaurus. Although it appeared like a dragon, it did not belong to the family of dinosaurs. It was a member of the flying reptiles, Azhdarchid group of pterosaurs which consists of the Arambourgiania and the Montanazhdarcho. 

These pterosaurs were carnivores and they consumed small animals such as lizards, baby dinosaurs and mammals. However, the azhdarchids lived mainly inland and were terrestrial. But the paleontologists believe that they had the ability to cross oceans by flying. Due to their preference and extremely pneumatic bones, their presence in fossils is not common. 

As described in the paper, their skeleton which contained remains of the wings, neck, and ribs were found almost 30 years ago at a site named Dinosaur Park Formation in Alberta, Canada. Initially, its identity was mistaken to be the species of azhdarchid, Quetzalcoatlus which was found in Texas. But analyses conducted thereafter revealed it to be a new species and the first pterosaur to be found in Canada. Its name Cryodrakon boreas means “cold dragon of north winds”. 

The main skeleton belonged to a younger individual whose wingspan is estimated to be nearly 16 feet. On the other hand, a neckbone from an adult suggests the wingspan might be till 32 feet thus making it to the comparison of the biggest group of pterosaurs such as Quetzalcoatlus. Quetzalcoatlus weighed nearly 250 kilograms with a wingspan of nearly 35 feet. 

Researchers think that Cryodrakon might have possessed the same structure and size of Quetzalcoatlus with similar flight muscle fractions and flight performance. Cryodrakon is believed to be heavier with a slightly more robust neck than Quetzalcoatlus. 

David Hone, the study’s lead author from Queen Mary University, London said that identifying Cryodrakon as a distinct species with respect to Quetzalcoatlus is significant for the study of the evolution of predatory pterosaurs in North America. 

Journal Reference:  Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology.

Comets in the solar system might share the same place of origin

Comets in the solar system might share the same place of origin

According to new research, all comets might come from the same place. Astronomer Christian Eistrup from Leiden University used chemical models on fourteen widely known comets only to find a clear pattern. 

Comets move through the solar system and they are made of dust, ice, and small rocks. Their nuclei can span as wide as several kilometers. Some of them have strange orbits around the Sun and have also hit Earth in the past. Eistrup said that the composition of comets is very well known and are usually considered as icy balls. So he wanted to find out if they actually belong to one group or are divided by several subsets. 

Eistrup’s research team also included Ewine van Dishoeck, Kavli Prize winner who created models for predicting the chemical composition of protoplanetary discs, which are flat discs made of dust and gas encompassing younger stars. These discs help in knowing about the formation of stars and planets. These were now applied to comets. Ewine along with Eistrup used statistics to understand if there was a particular place in the solar system where the models meet the comets’ data. It turned out that all the fourteen comets showed the same result. Each comet could be described by only one model indicating that their common origin. The work can be found here.

The origin is near to our Sun at a time when a protoplanetary disc encircled it while the formation of the planets took place. The model suggests a zone that is farther from the Sun’s nucleus and where the temperature varies in the range of 21 to 28 Kelvin, a very low temperature where CO (carbon monoxide) turns into ice. There are several reactions that are taking place in the ice phase in the time frame of a hundred thousand to million years. This explains different comets with different types of compositions. 

The orbits of the comets vary since some of the comets might have been disturbed by planets like Jupiter, which explains the varied nature of the orbits. 

Eistrup wants to test the hypothesis on many more comets as the current sample size is pretty small, only fourteen. He hopes that astronomers studying the solar system and its origins can use his results which can provide them with new insights, hence he is interested to discuss this model with other comet researchers. 

We still do not how life started on our planet. However, the chemistry of the comets could be responsible for some of life’s building blocks. Life could start with the right comet hitting the right planet accompanied by a suitable environment. Understanding comets could lead to understanding the origin of life on our planet.