Paul M. Sutter But an astrophysicist sunny Stony Brook and the Flatiron Institute, host Ask an astronaut And Space radioAnd is the author of How to die in space. He contributed to this article of Space.com Expert Voices: Opinions and Insights.
Where is the material for life on Earth Come from A team of astronomers has found an important new link: the observation of essential “prebiotic” molecules around a star forming a stable.
Someday those molecules may end up in a planet and become necessary Element for life.
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One of the many distinguishing factors that separate life from non-life is life’s ability to use a variety of molecular devices to store, transport, and release energy. The cells of your body are a veritable chemical civilization in miniature Dna And RNA shots, calling proteins, working back and forth, grunt work and lattice of lipids to keep everything intact.
All those complex molecules rest on certain ancestors, known as prebiotics. We are not sure exactly how complex life on Earth emerged (or could emerge elsewhere) The universe), But it seems obvious that if you want to transition from a definitely not-alive-to-alive, you’ll have to go through some stages of complexity involving these precursor molecules.
For example, methyl isocyanate (CH3NCO) and glycolonitrile (HOCH2CN) are each other’s isomers – their basic elements are the same, but those elements are arranged differently in space. Both of them are extremely dangerous for human health personally. Methyl isocyanate is caustic and irritable, and the glycolonitrile quickly decomposes into formaldehyde and hydrogen cyanide.
Although these two molecules are not compatible by themselves, they take important steps for survival. They are involved in creating peptide structures (with peptides eventually going to glue together to form proteins) and adenine, one of the four bases in the genetic code of our DNA.
Look at the light
Why am I talking so much about methyl isocyanate and glycolonitrile? Because astronomers have found evidence of these two prebiotic molecules hanging out in deep space, according to just one research. The paper has recently appeared in the print magazine arXiv, Which has been accepted for publication in the journal Astronomy and Astrophysics.
Astronomers found these pre-critters in Serpens SMM1-A and IRAS 16293B, the astronomical designations for the two protosters.
Opposers As the name itself suggests, there are not many stars yet. They are still forming, colliding with clouds of gas and dust, but have not achieved the density and temperature required to trigger nuclear fusion. To understand how life evolves in the universe, it is necessary to observe the protostar, as it is from this proto-soup that the planets eventually emerge, and to a large degree they are born with what they got from the early protostar system. is.
So if we want to hunt for the origin of life, we have to look inside the planetarium like these two.
To identify the molecules, astronomers used a technique called spectroscopy. Protostars are at this level with only dense-to-average dust flakes. They are not incredibly hot and bright, which is making them difficult, unless you have the world’s most powerful radio telescope on your back.
Which was done by astronomers.
using the Atacama Large Millimeter / Sub-Millimeter Array (ALMA) In Chile, astronomers carefully studied the light coming from the protostar. Buried within that light was a subtle hint of all kinds of elements and molecules, each bearing off its own particular wavelength fingerprint. By matching fingerprints to known emissions from various elements, astronomers were able to find prebiotics.
So, fantastic: More material for life is found in a young, still-making system. This means that if those systems evolve the planets, and those planets have the correct position, then there are at least two essential tools in life.
So, how did prebiotics get there?
related: Amazing photos from the ALMA radio telescope array
in the mix
Methyl isocyanate and glycolonatryl do not just float around the universe randomly, hoping for a chance to be part of a star system. These prebiotic molecules have not been found in surveys of interstellar gas clouds, which means that the protostar system had to cook these molecules anyway.
Astronomers believe that, in the case of SMM1-a, it experiences a period of relative calm in recent times, when icy dust can surround a soon-to-be-occurring star without melting – but without lock. Did too. This allowed chemical reactions, as the various elements traded with each other in interesting molecular combinations.
We do not yet know whether the processes that caused these prebiotics to form around the protostars are common throughout the galaxy or unique to those systems. Further studies will help pin down that answer, which is just one answer among many to understand how common life is in the universe.
Read more: “Prebiotic molecular list of Serpens SMM1. Detection of isomers CH3NCO and HOCH2CN“
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