The Discovery of Complex Organic Matter in the Universe
- URL to fascinating article from the Daily Galaxy
Fred Hoyle proposed something like this in his book Lifecloud. But to
actually find that complex organic compounds are being created in the
atmosphere of stars is humbling. Truly, we are star stuff
First few paragraphs
"This past October astronomers reported that organic compounds of
unexpected complexity exist throughout the Universe. The results suggest that
complex organic compounds are not the sole domain of life, but can be made
naturally by stars.
Prof. _Sun Kwok_ (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sun_Kwok) and Dr. Yong
Zhang of the _University of Hong Kong_
(University%20of%20Hong%20Kong)&t=h) showed that an _organic substance_
(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Organic_compound) commonly found throughout the Universe
contains a mixture of aromatic (ring-like) and aliphatic (chain-like)
components. The compounds are so complex that their _chemical structures_
(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chemical_structure) resemble those of coal and
petroleum. Since coal and oil are remnants of ancient life, this type of organic
matter was thought to arise only from living organisms. The team's discovery
suggests that complex organic compounds can be synthesized in space even
when no life forms are present.
The researchers investigated an unsolved phenomenon: a set of infrared
emissions detected in stars, interstellar space, and galaxies. These spectral
signatures are known as "Unidentified Infrared Emission features".
For over two decades, the most commonly accepted theory on the origin of
these signatures has been that they come from simple organic molecules made
of carbon and hydrogen atoms, called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (_PAH_
(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polycyclic_aromatic_hydrocarbon) ) molecules.
From observations taken by the _Infrared Space Observatory_
universe-unseen-.html) and the _Spitzer Space Telescope_
(http://www.spitzer.caltech.edu/) , Kwok and Zhang showed that the astronomical spectra have
features that cannot be explained by PAH molecules.
Instead, the team proposed that the substances generating these infrared
emissions have chemical structures that are much more complex. By analyzing
spectra of star dust formed in exploding stars called novae, they show that
stars are making these complex organic compounds on extremely short time
scales of weeks.
Not only are stars producing this complex organic matter, they are also
ejecting it into the general interstellar space, the region between stars. The
work supports an earlier idea proposed by Kwok that old stars are
molecular factories capable of manufacturing organic compounds."
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