"Soup of life" detected in galaxy 250 mln light years away
Washington | January 15, 2008 11:14:59 AM IST
Astronomers have detected for the first time two important building blocks of life in a galaxy 250 million light years away.
Observed from the Arecibo Observatory radio telescope in Puerto Rico, these two vital ingredients are the molecules methanimine and hydrogen cyanide, which build life-forming amino acids.
According to Robert Minchin, an Arecibo astronomer on the project, methanimine and hydrogen cyanide are two of the basic ingredients of life, because when combined with water they form glycine, the simplest amino acid, a building block of life on Earth.
For the research, the astronomers focused on the distant galaxy Arp 220, an ultra-luminous starburst galaxy, because it forms new stars at a very high rate.
Using the 305-meter Arecibo radio telescope, which is the world's largest and most sensitive telescope, the galaxy was observed at different frequencies.
The life-building molecules were then found by searching for radio emission at specific frequencies. Each chemical substance has its own unique radio frequency and astronomers can in that way identify the different substances, much like people can be identified with their unique fingerprints.
"We weren't targeting any particular molecule, so we didn't know what we were going to find - we just started searching, and what we found was incredibly exciting," said Tapasi Ghosh, an Arecibo astronomer.
"The fact that we can observe these substances at such a vast distance means that there are huge amounts of them in Arp 220," said Emmanuel Momjian, from the National Radio Astronomy Observatory in Socorro, N.M.
"It is indeed very intriguing to find that the ingredients of life appear in large quantities where new stars and planets are born," he added. (ANI)
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