Scientists have recently detected Iso-propyl cyanide in a star-forming cloud 27,000 light-years away from Earth.
This molecule has a branched carbon structure that is similar to complex organic molecules of life, and its presence suggests that there is life-bearing chemistry at the center of the galaxy.
According to BBC , various organic molecules have previously been discovered in space, but this molecule is the first to have a branched carbon backbone.
Having this backbone is important, as it shows that interstellar space could be the origin of more complex branched molecules – such as amino acids – that are necessary for life on Earth.
Scientists from Cornell University were the first to detect the molecule.
At the time, they were using the Atacama Large Millimeter Array (ALMA) in order to study the gaseous star-forming region Sagittarius B2.
Rob Garrod, the Cornell senior research associate at the Centre for Radiophysics and Space Research, explained that organic molecules found in star-forming regions usually have a single backbone of carbon atoms arranged in a straight chain.
This molecule, however, has a carbon backbone that branches off, making it the first interstellar detection of such a molecule.
As a result, it is possible that life-bearing molecules can be formed in interstellar space and make their way to the surfaces of planets.
Arnaud Belloche, the lead author of the findings, stated , “Understanding the production of organic material at the early stages of star formation is critical to piecing together the gradual progression from simple molecules to potentially life-bearing chemistry…Amino acids on Earth are the building blocks of proteins, and proteins are very important for life as we know it.
The question in the background is: is there life somewhere else in the galaxy?” As of now, Iso-propyl cyanide is the largest and most complex molecule found to date.