Organic molecules in interstellar dust clouds

Molecule discovery suggests life could have started in space

Focus: Science and Technology, Issue 275, December 2014

Summary and review of the above article

An isopropyl cyanide molecule, the largest and most complex molecule to date found in interstellar space, has been discovered by the Atacama array in Chile. The discovery was located in a star-forming gas cloud. Dust in the cloud becomes heated, and chemical isopropyl-cyanidereactions on dust particles can give rise to complex molecules. Hydrogen-rich organic molecules, similar to those essential to life on Earth, are numerous in dust clouds that give birth to new stars. The presence of isopropyl cyanide suggests the possibility that the building blocks of life could be common in interstellar dust clouds. A total of around 180 molecules have been identified in interstellar space. It is thought that amino acid molecules, the constituents of protein, may also be produced in dust clouds in interstellar space. Amino acids have been found in meteorites suggesting that they too originated from interstellar space.The stunning Milky Way above the antennas at the ALMA Observatory.


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