A team of ‘Guapos’ scientists have discovered organic molecules in the Milky Way. The National Institute of Astrophysics has announced that by pointing the powerful Chilean antennas of the Atacama Large Millimeter / submillimeter Array (Alma) towards the star-forming region of the Milky Way G31.41 + 0.31, an international team of scientists led by Laura Colzi, researcher at the Madrid Astrobiology Center, with the participation of researchers from the National Institute of Astrophysics, has in fact detected several complex organic molecules that may have contributed to the birth and evolution of life on the primitive Earth. The study was carried out as part of the larger Guapos project (G31 Unbiased Alma sPectral Observational Survey) and the results of the study were published in the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics.
These particular molecules, explains INAF, “contain the structure responsible for the union of amino acids for the formation of proteins. The study of prebiotic molecules in galactic gas may allow astrochemists to understand how the basic ingredients of prebiotic chemistry formed in interstellar space and how they might have arrived on primitive Earth. ”
Laura Colzi, an associate at INAF in Firenzes, says the team “detected the presence of several molecules with the nitrogen-carbon-oxygen structure, such as isocyanic acid, formamide, methyl isocyanate, and even species more complex ones such as acetamide (CH3C (O) NH2) and N-methylformamide. These molecules were observed together for the first time in the disk of our Galaxy, outside the Galactic Center “. The research team compared the abundance of these molecules with those in other low- and high-mass star-forming regions, along with theoretical predictions from chemical models that they provide important information on how these molecules fundamental to prebiotic chemistry can be born in space.
“Our results – continues the researcher – suggest that these molecules probably formed on the surface of interstellar grains during the first and cold phases of star formation. Once the protostars are born, they begin to heat the surrounding environment and drive molecular outflows: consequently the environment becomes hotter and more turbulent. These physical conditions are responsible for the evaporation of the molecules from the surface of the dust grains; once the molecules are in the gas phase, their presence can be detected using powerful radio telescopes, such as Alma. “
The study is part of a larger project called Guapos (G31 Unbiased Alma sPectral Observational Survey), it is a highly sensitive spectral survey of the G31.41 + 0.31 region that covers the entire band 3, ie from 84 to 116 GHz. “We have selected this region because in the Galaxy it is one of the richest from a chemical point of view: A few years ago we first detected the simplest sugar, glycolaldehyde, outside the Galactic Center for the first time. For this reason, G31.41 + 0.31 is a primary target for the search for other molecules, especially those that are interesting for prebiotic chemistry “says Maria Teresa Beltrán co-author of the article, Pi of the Guapos project and researcher at the Inaf of Florence.
Finally, Colzi points out that “the environment in which the Solar System was formed could be similar to the huge star-forming regions we observe today, such as G31.41 + 0.31. Therefore, the study of the chemical reservoirs of these regions provides very useful insights on the molecules they allowed the wonderful leap from prebiotic chemistry to biology on primitive Earth “.