Space telescope discovered an ancient complex organic molecule in a distant galaxy

The James Webb Space Telescope has found the oldest complex organic molecule in the distant galaxy SPT0418-47, which Earth astronomers see as it was just a billion and a half years after the Big Bang. The new discovery clarified the composition of the distant galaxy and provided insight into the complex chemistry that goes hand in hand with the birth of new stars.

Gravitational lensing, a rare phenomenon in which two galaxies appear to be in a straight line to observers from Earth, has combined the capabilities of James Webb and the natural galactic lens. As a result, scientists detected evidence of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) in SPT0418-47, some of which are strong carcinogens, also found on Earth.

PAHs are quite common in space, but they are usually present in regions saturated with cold gas, where star formation is most active. But according to new observations, at least for the early Universe, things are a little more complicated. Astronomers have now found traces of PAHs in several regions where no new stars have formed or the radiation from stars is blocked by something. However, there were also regions of active star formation, but no traces of complex organics in them.

The results were published in the journal Nature and confirm the amazing capabilities of Earth-based telescopes, through which astronomers can study the chemical composition of the galaxy, which is billions of years from Earth. In the future, they will be able to find even more distant galaxies, formed not billions but millions of years after the Big Bang, and look even further back in time.

This discovery could help scientists better understand the evolution of galaxies and the formation of life in the universe. Organic molecules such as PAHs are key building blocks for life, experts say, so finding and studying them in space is important for science.

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