Astronomers discover a star like the Sun in formation that could be building the bricks of life

An international team of astronomers, led by the Queen Mary University of London and with the participation of researchers from the Center for Astrobiology (CSIC-INTA), has discovered, in the material from which a star like the Sun is being formed, a organic molecule that is key in the prebiotic chemistry

The detection indicates that the planets could be formed by already having a supply of chemical ingredients necessary to give way to life forms.

The molecule detected was glycolonitrile (HOCH2CN), a prebiotic molecule that existed before the appearance of life. The finding has been made in IRAS16293 B, a well-studied solar type protostar in the constellation of Ophiuchus, specifically in a region of star formation known as Rho Ophiuchi, located about 450 light years from Earth. This warm and dense region contains young stars at the earliest stage of their evolution, surrounded by a gas and dust envelope and conditions similar to those of our Solar System when it was formed.

This finding, published in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, is an important advance for prebiotic astrochemistry, since glycolonitrile is recognized as a key precursor to the formation of adenine, one of the nitrogenous bases that form the structure both of DNA and RNA in living organisms.

To achieve this discovery, the researchers used the ALMA millimeter and submillimeter wave interferometer, located in Atacama (Chile), to discover evidence of the presence of glycolonitrile in the material from which the star is being formed, known as interstellar medium.

This discovery joins the previous detection, in the same stellar object, of the methyl isocyanate. Methyl isocyanate is what is known as a glycolonitrile isomer, that is, it is composed of the same atoms, but in a slightly different arrangement, which means that it has different chemical properties. Both discoveries, as indicated by Izaskun Jimenez, CAB researcher and co-author of the study, "represent the first steps to understand the chemical reactions that take place in the molecular clouds in which the stars are formed and that could result in crucial molecules in biochemical functions. "



Figure: general view of the Rho Ophiuchi stellar formation region in the Ophiuchus constellation. © ESO / Digitized Sky Survey 2, thanks to Davide de Martin

 

Fuente: UCC-CAB

 

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