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Space

Herschel Space Observatory Finds Precursors of Life In Orion 142

ogre7299 recommends an announcement out of Caltech on a milestone for HIFI, the Herschel Space Observatory's Heterodyne Instrument for the Far Infrared. "The Herschel Space Observatory has revealed the chemical fingerprints of potential life-enabling organic molecules in the Orion Nebula, a nearby stellar nursery in our Milky Way galaxy. ... This detailed-spectrum, obtained with the Heterodyne Instrument for the Far Infrared (HIFI) — one of Herschel's three innovative instruments — demonstrates the gold mine of information that Herschel-HIFI will provide on how organic molecules form in space. The spectrum, one of the first to be obtained with HIFI since it returned to full health in January 2010 following technical difficulties, clearly demonstrates that the instrument is working well. ... [The HIFI instrument had previously been offline since] August 2009 when HIFI experienced an unexpected voltage spike in the electronic system, probably caused by a high-energy cosmic particle, resulting in the instrument shutting down. On 14 January 2010, HIFI was successfully switched back on using its spare electronics, with science observations commencing on 28 February."

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