In the depths of the Orion Nebula, among a fine pattern of dust and gas, scientists have finally discovered an important carbon molecule that has never before been seen in interstellar space. Methenium, also known as methyl cation (CH 3+), plays a key role in organic chemistry in space and helps build more complex carbon molecules. This discovery is important for our understanding of the processes that lead to life elsewhere in the galaxy.
Scientists have long speculated that CH 3+ plays an important role in interstellar chemistry, but it has been difficult to observe outside the solar system because of its peculiarities. However, with the advent of the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), it became possible to study interstellar environments with high sensitivity to infrared radiation. It was with the JWST that scientists identified CH 3+ in the disk of dust and gas surrounding a young star, confirming its role in interstellar chemistry.
The disk of dust and gas orbiting the red dwarf d203-506 was the site of the labeling detection. This is a typical phenomenon for young stars, which are born from a dense clump of material in the molecular cloud of space. When a star forms, the remnants of the disk begin to form other objects, such as planets and asteroids. Studying disks around other stars helps scientists better understand the processes that led to the formation of our solar system and the origin of life on Earth.
This discovery confirms not only the incredible sensitivity of JWST, but also the role of CH 3+ in interstellar chemistry, stresses astronomer Marie-Aline Martin-Drumel from the University of Paris-Saclay in France. Scientists hope that further studies of interstellar environments and the discovery of other important molecules will help expand our understanding of the origin and development of life in the universe.