Observations of a young sun-like star located in the Ophiuchus Constellation, around 450 light years away from Earth have revealed the existence of a molecule that may have helped ‘start’ life on Earth.
The molecule in question is called Glycolonitrile, and its the first time astronomers have spotted this type of molecule, thought to have existed before life itself, in this type of protostar.
Scientists believe that this type of discovery could help us better understand how solar systems, as well as life, came into existence billions of years ago.
The new study was led by scientists from the Queen Mary University of London, who focused their observations on a sun-like protostar dubbed IRAS16293-2422 B. They targeted the star specifically searching for such molecules.
The research was also carried out with the Centro de Astrobiología in Spain, INAF-Osservatorio Astrofisico di Arcetri in Italy, the European Southern Observatory, and the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in the USA.
Scientists made use of the Atacama Large Millimeter/ submillimetre Array (ALMA) telescope in Chile as they investigated IRAS16293-2422 B for traces of the pre-biotic molecule in the interstellar medium.
“We have shown that this important pre-biotic molecule can be formed in the material from which stars and planets emerge, taking us a step closer to identifying the processes that may have led to the origin of life on Earth,” explained Shaoshan Zeng, from the Queen Mary University of London.
IRAS16293-2422 B is located within a star-forming region called the Rho Opiuchi. This cloud complex is a dark nebula composed of gas and dust and is one of the closest star-forming regions to our solar system.
Glycolonitrile is thought to play an important role in the formation of life, as it is said to be a precursor to the formation of another molecule called Adenine, which in turn plays a fundamental role in both DNA and RNA.
Scientists estimate that the conditions found within the star-forming region are eerily similar to those that existed in the very beginning of our solar system.
Previous studies of the same region revealed the existence of methyl isocyanate – an isomer of glycolonitrile.
Scientists say that the discovery of the above-mentioned molecules tells us a lot about the different processes that existed during the formation of our solar system. Furthermore, scientists believe that planets around such stars may have access to the very chemical building blocks of life fro which life came into existence on Earth.