NASA found carbon molecules, the building blocks of life, in the Orion Nebula.
By TeeJay Small | Updated
NASA made an incredible discovery this week using the iconic James Webb Space Telescope, according to a research paper published in Nature. Deep in the far reaches of the fierce Orion Nebula, scientists say they have found a carbon-based molecule that has never been identified in outer space and serves as one of the building blocks for life on Earth.
While there is currently no way to know for sure whether the distant system supports life of its own, this discovery brings scientists another big step closer to finding out.
The molecule, called methyl cation, or CH3+, is located 1,350 light-years from Earth in a system called d203-506, which is surrounded by dust and gas clouds of space that engulf the entire region. NASA says the system orbits a small red dwarf at its center, which weighs about one-tenth the mass of our sun.
While CH3+ does not seem to react when in contact with hydrogen, the carbon-based molecule is known to bond with many elements to create positively charged ions.
In a statement from Marie-Aline Martin-Drumel, the spectroscopist at Paris-Saclay University who co-authored the research that led to the discovery, she confirmed that the molecule serves as an essential building block for all life on Earth, meaning it could potentially serve as a foundation for alien life as well.
NASA’s use of the James Webb Space Telescope has led to thousands of highly sensitive space discoveries in recent years, opening many paths to a better understanding of the universe around us than we ever imagined. possible.
James Webb takes images at infrared and near-infrared wavelengths, allowing NASA and related scientists to view cosmic phenomena beyond the traditional range of visual clarity, such as CH3+, by cutting through gas-filled and dust-filled regions of space.
This explains why so many recent discoveries have been made with the JWST, as previous telescopic technology, such as the Hubble, was marred by their visual clarity. For example, Hubble would never be able to penetrate the thick cosmic clouds in the Orion Nebula to find CH3+ molecules without infrared scanning technology available.
NASA’s discovery of CH3+ was developed as part of the PDRs4 scientific collaboration, which images and analyzes Photo-Dissociation Regions to locate and reflect the ultraviolet radiation found in hot dust regions and trees. gas throughout the universe.
The collaborative effort has made a number of exciting scientific discoveries with James Webb, and aims to look further afield as the team continues their research.
Because of the time dilation that occurs when peering into the far reaches of space, hundreds or thousands of light-years from Earth’s range, NASA scientists looking deep into space have the ability to see the distant past, as the light farthest. the stretches of the universe take a long time to reach our eye.
As a result, the James Webb Space Telescope can peer into the ancient past and witness primordial galaxies far beyond the reach of human history, providing insight into the early stages of the creation of the universe.
While the presence of CH3+ in the d203-506 system seems to indicate the possibility of life within the system, either now, or in the distant past, it remains impossible to know for sure. For now, all we can do is wait for the brilliant minds at NASA to continue searching for answers.
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