Nav: Home

Organic compound found in early stages of star formation

June 08, 2017

Scientists seeking to understand the origins of life have found a new organic compound in the material from which a star like the Sun is forming.

Researchers from Queen Mary University of London (QMUL) are part of a team that have for the first time detected methyl isocyanate (or CH3NCO) in a solar-type protostar, the kind from which our Sun and the Solar System formed.

Methyl isocyanate (CH3NCO) is one of a family of prebiotic molecules, thought to be the precursors of more complex compounds, such as peptides and amino acids, associated with living organisms on Earth.

"Our findings indicate that the key ingredients for the origin of life could have been produced at an early stage of the Solar System," said co-author Dr David Quénard from QMUL's School of Physics and Astronomy.

The team used data from the ALMA telescope (Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array) in Chile to detect the compound in the warm, dense inner regions of the cocoon of dust and gas around very young stars in the multiple star system IRAS 16293-2422.

Using a new computer model jointly developed by QMUL and University College London (UCL), they were able to use the new observations to understand more about the chemistry in the proto-stellar material and the mechanisms by which this complex molecule is formed.

Earth and the other planets in our Solar System are formed from the material left over after the formation of the Sun. Studying solar-type protostars can therefore open a window to the past for astronomers, allowing them to observe similar conditions that led to the formation of our Solar System over 4.5 billion years ago.

Finding complex molecules such as methyl isocyanate in a solar-type protostar indicates that planets created around the star could begin their existence with a supply of the chemical ingredients needed to make some form of life.

Scientists believe that some basic prebiotic chemistry, involving molecules that form the building blocks of structures associated with life on Earth, could have developed in space. It is believed that molecules created in clouds of interstellar gas and dust during the early stages of star formation could be transferred to planets and smaller bodies (such as asteroids and comets) forming around stars.

Comets, for example, exhibit a wide variety of complex organic molecules that are also commonly detected in matter that lies between the star systems in a galaxy, referred to as the interstellar medium.

Co-author Dr Izaskun Jiménez-Serra from the School of Physics and Astronomy said: "Our results suggest that the chemical composition of comets may be inherited directly from the interstellar medium."
-end-
The results are published in the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

Queen Mary University of London

Related Solar System Articles:

From rocks in Colorado, evidence of a 'chaotic solar system'
Plumbing a 90 million-year-old layer cake of sedimentary rock in Colorado, a team of scientists from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Northwestern University has found evidence confirming a critical theory of how the planets in our solar system behave in their orbits around the sun.
Why are there different 'flavors' of iron around the Solar System?
New work from Carnegie's Stephen Elardo and Anat Shahar shows that interactions between iron and nickel under the extreme pressures and temperatures similar to a planetary interior can help scientists understand the period in our Solar System's youth when planets were forming and their cores were created.
Does our solar system have an undiscovered planet? You can help astronomers find out
ASU's Adam Schneider and colleagues are hunting for runaway worlds in the space between stars, and citizen scientists can join the search with a new NASA-funded website.
Rare meteorites challenge our understanding of the solar system
Researchers have discovered minerals from 43 meteorites that landed on Earth 470 million years ago.
New evidence on the formation of the solar system
International research involving a Monash University scientist is using new computer models and evidence from meteorites to show that a low-mass supernova triggered the formation of our solar system.
More Solar System News and Solar System Current Events

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Anthropomorphic
Do animals grieve? Do they have language or consciousness? For a long time, scientists resisted the urge to look for human qualities in animals. This hour, TED speakers explore how that is changing. Guests include biological anthropologist Barbara King, dolphin researcher Denise Herzing, primatologist Frans de Waal, and ecologist Carl Safina.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#534 Bacteria are Coming for Your OJ
What makes breakfast, breakfast? Well, according to every movie and TV show we've ever seen, a big glass of orange juice is basically required. But our morning grapefruit might be in danger. Why? Citrus greening, a bacteria carried by a bug, has infected 90% of the citrus groves in Florida. It's coming for your OJ. We'll talk with University of Maryland plant virologist Anne Simon about ways to stop the citrus killer, and with science writer and journalist Maryn McKenna about why throwing antibiotics at the problem is probably not the solution. Related links: A Review of the Citrus Greening...