Distant star-forming clouds contain a “soup” of molecules thought to be essential building blocks for life, astronomers have found.
These molecules may contribute to the formation of amino-acids, which themselves form the basis of genetic material and are believed to have been essential in the development of the first microorganisms. the world.
Prebiotic molecules have been found in one of these star clusters Perseus molecular cloud called IC348. The they are The cluster is estimated to be very young, between 2 and 3 million years. For comparison, our “middle age” the sun About 4.6 billion years old.
“(The cloud) is an extraordinary laboratory of biochemistry,” said Susan Iglesias-Groth, scientist at the Instituto de Astrophysica de Canarias (IAC) and co-author of the study. statement (opens in new tab). “They are complex molecules of pure carbon that often occur as building blocks for the key molecules of life.”
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The 500-light-year-wide Perseus Cloud, where these molecules were discovered, is one of the closest active star-forming regions to Earth. solar system 1,000 only light year away
Many baby stars found in star clusters in clouds are surrounded by disks of gas and dust. Within this “protoplanetary disk” dense clumps of matter collapse gravity making planets, moons, the asteroidAnd comet — the natural building blocks of planetary systems that arise in a process similar to the one that gave birth to our solar system.
The detection of prebiotic molecules at such sites very close to the IC348 star cluster may indicate that as young planets form, they produce material containing molecules that eventually contribute to the formation of complex biomolecules.
“These key molecules can be delivered to nascent planets in the protoplanetary disk and thus help pave the way for life molecules there,” Martina Marin-Dobrinić, scientist at the Universidad Politecnica de Cartagena and study co-author, said in the statement.
Iglesias-Groth was also found Giant carbon molecules called fullerenes in the same cloud in 2019, and the team discovered the presence of molecular hydrogen (H2), hydroxyl (OH), water (H2O), carbon dioxide (CO2), and ammonia (NH3), as well as several carbon-based molecules. These latter molecules can contribute to the formation of more complex hydrocarbons and prebiotic molecules, including hydrogen cyanide (HCN), ethane (C2H6), hexatriene (C6H2), and benzene (C6H6).
The team found more complex molecules such as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH) and more fullerenes in the form of carbon-60 (C60), and carbon-70 (C70).
“IC 348 appears to be very rich and diverse in its molecular content,” Iglesias-Gorth said. “The novelty is that we see molecules in the diffuse gas from which stars and protoplanetary disks are forming.”
Iglesias-Groth and Marin-Dobrincic made their discovery using data collected by now-retired NASA scientists. Spitzer Space Telescope And they intend to follow the observations with more force James Webb Space Telescope (JWST).
“The spectroscopic capabilities of JWST can provide details about the spatial distribution of these molecules, and extend current findings to more complex ones, giving the high sensitivity and resolution essential to confirm the very likely presence of amino acids. These and other star-forming gas in the region,” Iglesias-Groth concluded.
Details of the discovery of these compounds have been published in a paper Monthly Bulletin of the Royal Astronomical Society (MNRAS). (opens in new tab)
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