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Ep. 24, Page 25
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Comic 1796 - Ep. 24, Page 25

15th Jan 2015, 5:59 AM in Episode 24 :: Save My Place | Load My Place
Average Rating: 5 (1 votes)

Author Notes:

smbhax 15th Jan 2015, 5:59 AM edit delete
smbhax
Back in September (I got kind of a backlog on space news articles >_>), the Max Planck Institute announced that they'd "detected a carbon-bearing molecule with a 'branched' structure in interstellar space. The molecule, iso-propyl cyanide (i-C3H7CN), was discovered in a giant gas cloud called Sagittarius B2, a region of ongoing star formation close to the center of our galaxy that is a hot-spot for molecule-hunting astronomers."

Organic (carbon-bearing) molecules had been detected in that region before, but they were simpler "straight chain" molecules, whereas this newly-spotted one branches out from several nodes in a configuration that is more like the amino acids that are the building blocks of life on Earth—so, spotting molecules of that type is a big boost for the hunt for the origins of life. We know such molecules have come to Earth on meteorites, and now we know that they can exist in deep space—and that may bring us closer to finding their (and our??) ultimate origin:

"Amino acids identified in meteorites have a composition that suggests they originate in the interstellar medium," adds Belloche. “Although no interstellar amino acids have yet been found, interstellar chemistry may be responsible for the production of a wide range of important complex molecules that eventually find their way to planetary surfaces."

"The detection of iso-propyl cyanide tells us that amino acids could indeed be present in the interstellar medium because the side-chain structure is a key characteristic of these molecules", says Karl Menten, director at MPIfR and head of its Millimeter and Submillimeter Astronomy research department. "Amino acids have already been identified in meteorites and we hope to detect them in the interstellar medium in the future", he concludes.

So there you go! These key molecules were spotted pretty close to A* itself—just 300 light years away from it! (Earth is about 26,000 light years away from A*.) You can see a radio telescope photo of where they were found, and A*, in the article.

Comments:

moizmad 15th Jan 2015, 11:57 AM edit delete reply
moizmad
What is she doing, the Australian Crawl?
smbhax 16th Jan 2015, 5:47 AM edit delete reply
smbhax
I dunno, how's the pay?