Science News

Complex Organic Molecules Detected Light-Years Away In Space

Organic Life In Space

The Taurus star-forming region is located 455 light-years from Earth and within this region is a star known as MWC 480, which is roughly twice the mass of the sun and shines about 10 times brighter, which has a disk of gas and dust which surround it— gas and dust in which astronomers have, for the very first time, detected the basic building blocks for life: complex organic molecules.

The study’s lead author, Karin Oberg with the Harvard-Smithsonian Center of Astrophysics in Massachusetts told by email that the “very rich organic chemistry present in the young solar system, as evidenced by cometary compositions, is far from unique” and that it subsequently “seems likely that the prebiotic chemistry that took place in the solar system, including Earth, is also happening elsewhere”.

Oberg and her colleagues observed MWC 480 with the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA), the same international telescope which recently observed the gravitational lens effect known as an Einstein ring, and found the disk surrounding the star to be filled with enough of a complex carbon-based molecule known as methyl cyanide to, according to NBC News, fill all of the Earth’s oceans.

The building blocks for proteins, amino acids, require the carbon-nitrogen bonds of cyanides to form; making the volatile elements necessary for life.

Not only did researchers behind the recent study, which was published in the journal Nature, detect the presence of methyl cyanide, they also discovered its simpler organic cousin, hydrogen cyanide. The two were identified in the cold outer reaches of the newly formed disc.

Dr. Oberg was quoted by the Daily Mail as having said that at this point, we “have evidence that this same chemistry exists somewhere in the universe, in regions that could form solar systems not unlike our own.”

Studies of comets and asteroids show that the solar nebula that spawned our sun and planets was rich in water and complex organic compounds […] We now have evidence that this same chemistry exists elsewhere in the universe, in regions that could form solar systems not unlike our own.

Earlier today, we reported here on Immortal News that NASA’s chief scientist is predicting the discovery of alien life within the next 20 years.

When, if ever, do you think we’ll discover intelligent extraterrestrial life?

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