Spectacular photo of Comet ISON taken Nov. 15 from Charleston, Rhode Island, USA showing the recent outburst. Click to enlarge. Credit: Scott MacNeill

Comet ISON Hosted A Rare Kind Of Nitrogen, Hinting At Reservoirs In Young Solar System

21 Feb , 2014 by

Comet ISON — that bright comet last year that broke up around Thanksgiving weekend — included two forms of nitrogen in its icy body, according to newly released observations from the Subaru Telescope.

Of the two types found, the discovery of isotope 15NH2 was the first time it’s ever been seen in a comet. Further, the observations from the Japanese team of astronomers show “there were two distinct reservoirs of nitrogen [in] the massive, dense cloud … from which our Solar System may have formed and evolved,” stated the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan.

Besides being pretty objects to look at, comets are considered valuable astronomical objects because they’re a sort of time capsule of conditions early in the universe. The “fresh” comets are believed to come from a vast area of icy bodies called the Oort Cloud, a spot that has been relatively untouched since the solar system formed about 4.6 billion years ago. Spying elements inside of comets can give clues as to what was present in our neighborhood when the sun and planets were just coming to be.

“Ammonia (NH3) is a particularly important molecule, because it is the most abundant nitrogen-bearing volatile (a substance that vaporizes) in cometary ice and one of the simplest molecules in an amino group (–NH2) closely related to life. This means that these different forms of nitrogen could link the components of interstellar space to life on Earth as we know it,” NAOJ stated.

You can read more details about the finding at the NAOJ website, or in Astrophysical Journal Letters.

, , , ,



Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
jsbrooks
Member
February 21, 2014 8:49 PM

I find every astronomical premise that resorts to a belief in a big bang, or some other origin myth, deeply flawed; so this article and many other articles on astronomical topics lose my attention when they resort to such origin myths. The formation processes that made the asteroids, comets, earth, the sun, the rest of the solar system, galaxy and physical universe are on-going, and continuous. Thus, postulating that comets and asteroids are all a left over “time capsule of conditions early in the universe,” is absurd.

Stuart21
Member
Stuart21
February 21, 2014 9:18 PM

Sorry JS, scientists go with the evidence. & when the evidence contradicts the theory, you modify it till it does or discard it & find a new one.

What is the evidence for your ‘astronomical premise’? How do you reconcile red shift?

InTheory
Member
InTheory
February 22, 2014 2:12 AM

It’s a shame that creationists can’t appreciate the grandeur of creation when it’s dropped in their laps. Retreating into bronze age mythology when new discoveries are made is not a healthy way of coping with reality.

mewo
Member
mewo
February 22, 2014 5:35 AM
I think JS is pushing the eternal universe hypothesis, not creationism. Under most versions of this world view, matter is continually coming into existence at a constant rate that exactly balances the recession of the galaxies; in order that the density of the universe stays the same. New galaxies form between the old ones from the newly created gas. In this way you can postulate a universe that has existed forever, had no beginning, and has always been the same overall. This world view is demonstrably wrong, for many reasons. The most obvious is that the galaxies at high redshift are quite obviously different in morphology, star formation rates and chemical composition than the ones in the nearby… Read more »
InTheory
Member
InTheory
February 22, 2014 2:34 PM
I don’t think so. The equivalence made between the birth of the universe and the birth of the solar system convinces me otherwise. An eternal universe hypothesis would not need a Big Bang but would have no problem with the formation of a solar system. Even so, I believe eternal universe hypothesis is just another name for the tattered remnants of the Steady State Theory which breathed its last upon the discovery of he Cosmic Microwave Background Radiation and the final nail in the coffin was the discovery that the expansion of the universe was accelerating. I’m sure there are a few holdouts, but they’re fading into a vociferous background that contains believers in the aether, a geocentric… Read more »
mewo
Member
mewo
February 23, 2014 2:16 AM

Yes, “Steady State” is what I meant, but I for some reason I couldn’t remember the name. Thanks.

Jean R.
Member
February 23, 2014 1:30 PM
[S]hame that creationists can’t appreciate the grandeur of creation…” Quite the contrary: More than Evolutionist, those who prism “grandeur of creation” through a Maker, can have a GREATER appreciation of its splendor. (For reasons I will spare you.) – “Retreating into bronze age mythology”? Time-worn MISstatement. Try, Bronze & Iron Age revelation – and History. For which Archeology gives supporting witness (to BOTH aspects), refuting what is often MIScharacterized as “mythology”. Rocks of time do not spin myths of line (though features therewith imprint) – but weight of objective testimony from unearthed evidence (when allowed to speak). Dawn of Western Man, Science awakened from Dark Age span, seemed to cope quite well in morning light, when, from Book’s… Read more »
InTheory
Member
InTheory
February 24, 2014 3:01 AM
> Jean R. February 23, 2014 at 1:30 PM [S]hame that > creationists can’t appreciate the grandeur of creation…” > Quite the contrary: More than Evolutionist, those who prism > “grandeur of creation” through a Maker, can have a GREATER > appreciation of its splendor. (For reasons I will spare > you.) Thanks, I have a bible here and I’ve read it. > – “Retreating into bronze age mythology”? Time-worn > MISstatement. Try, Bronze & Iron Age revelation – and > History. For which Archeology gives supporting witness (to > BOTH aspects), refuting what is often MIScharacterized as > “mythology”. Rocks of time do not spin myths of line (though > features therewith imprint) – but weight of… Read more »
Jean R.
Member
February 24, 2014 11:06 PM
Greetings. Read the Bible? Then no stranger to its pages. Understanding themes, not so easy. – “One man’s myth is another man’s religion is another man’s belly laugh.” <– One man's scope, filters another man's lens (or something like that). “No traces of a world engulfing flood were found” <– That's debatable. Evidence dramatic of massive Martian floods, episodes past, surface-recorded, seen from above. Examine Earthly satellite vistas, hydrology-sculpted terrain, similar in watermark scale. No, that does not, as line of evidence, prove there was a Global Flood here below. But raises tide-marks of interest, Comparative Planetology trace. Flood Stories: “…many prior religions (mostly developed in flood prone regions) have similar flood myths.” <– Borrowed myth spun from… Read more »
ethanol
Member
ethanol
February 22, 2014 2:47 PM

The press release itself could have been more clear, but just to clarify, 15NH2 is not an isotope. It is a functional group containing the isotope 15N /chemicalpedantmode

InTheory
Member
InTheory
February 23, 2014 12:04 AM

I agree, the author was referring to Amine made with a rare but stable isotope of Nitrogen and the article could have been more clear on that, at least used superscript and subscript to write the formula, but surprisingly this site doesn’t seem to support superscript.

Richard Kirk
Member
Richard Kirk
February 23, 2014 4:38 AM

I just looked up Nitrogen Isotopes on Wikipaedia, to see how much there is, and what it’s half-life was. It is stable and is about 0.3% of terrestrial nitrogen.

And…

The ratio of 15N/14N in an organism can give clues about its diet, as movement up the food chain tends to concentrate the 15N isotope, by 3–4‰ with each step of the food chain.

Eeeep! Comet ISON is an apex predator!

wink

InTheory
Member
InTheory
February 24, 2014 3:19 AM

Interestingly, I used to work in a lab that used carbon and hydrogen isotope ratios to determine the level of adulteration of Cinnamomum cassia oil (an ingredient of Coke and other food flavors). The major constituent was cinnamic aldehyde which thanks to nuclear testing would show great differences in isotope ratios depending on whether the cinnamic aldehyde was naturally produced by the plant or synthetically produced in a plant.

Aqua4U
Member
February 24, 2014 11:21 AM

Well then, Comet ISON wasn’t a total dud… we DID get some science out of it! (And a little dust?) Live and learn!

wpDiscuz