For the first time, astronomers have discovered complex organic molecules, the basic building blocks for life, in a disk of gas and dust surrounding an alien star.
To the researchers’ surprise, the organics found around a young star called MWC 480 are not only surviving but thriving in quantities slightly higher than those thought to have existed in the early solar system. The prolific amount of material reveals that Earth’s solar system is not the only one to contain these complex molecules, suggesting that the ingredients required for life to evolve may exist throughout the universe. The scientists created a video tour of the star MWC 48 to showcase their discovery.
“The very rich organic chemistry present in the young solar system, as evidenced by cometary compositions, is far from unique,” lead author Karin Öberg, of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Massachusetts, told Space.com by email.
“It thus seems likely that the prebiotic chemistry that took place in the solar system, including Earth, is also happening elsewhere,” she said. . . .