Discovered in the Milky Way several complex organic molecules that contain the structure responsible for the union of amino acids into proteins and that could have contributed to the birth and evolution of life on Earth.
The result, obtained thanks to the Alma radio telescope (Atacama Large Millimeter / submillimeter Array) in Chile, is published in the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics by an international team led by Laura Colzi of the Center for Astrobiology in Madrid, with the participation of researchers from the National Institute of Astrophysics (Inaf).
Pointing Alma's powerful antennas towards the star-forming region G31.41 + 0.31 (one of the richest in the galaxy from a chemical point of view), the researchers detected the presence of "several molecules with the nitrogen-carbon-oxygen structure , such as isocyanic acid, formamide, methyl isocyanate, and also more complex species such as acetamide and N-methylformamide. These molecules were observed together for the first time in the disk of our Galaxy, outside the Galactic Center, ”says Colzi, who is also associated with INAF in Florence. The abundance of these molecules was then compared to that of other star-forming regions, along with the theoretical predictions of the models describing how these molecules can arise in space.The results indicate that these molecules were formed by evaporation from the surface of interstellar dust grains during the early stages of star formation.
The environment in which the Solar System formed could be similar to the huge star-forming regions we observe today, such as G31.41 + 0.31.
For this reason, the study “provides very useful insights into the molecules that allowed the wonderful leap from prebiotic chemistry to biology on the primitive Earth”, concludes Colzi.