Astronomers have studied clouds of dust and gas, from which planets should arise in the future. They found water and organic matter that can become the building blocks of life.
The achievement is described in a scientific article published in the Astrophysical Journal.
Scientists have observed protostars (forming-stage stars) AFGL 2591 and AFGL 2136. They are surrounded by disks of gas and dust, which are likely to form planets in the future.
AFGL 2591 and AFGL 2136 are gigantic objects. Their mass exceeds the solar mass by 40 times. Thanks to this, it is convenient to study them with terrestrial telescopes, despite the considerable distance. Both protostars are about three thousand light-years from Earth, albeit in different directions.
The researchers studied these celestial bodies with two infrared telescopes. The first one, IRTF, has a mirror with a diameter of three meters and is installed in Hawaii at an altitude of four kilometers. The second, SOFIA, has a slightly more modest diameter: 2.7 meters. But it works at a higher altitude, and it is not surprising: the instrument is mounted on board a Boeing-747SP aircraft.
Let us explain that it is advantageous to raise an infrared telescope as high as possible so that it is less disturbed by impurities in the air (primarily water vapor, carbon dioxide and dust).
Astronomers found signatures of water and organic matter in data from both instruments.
“We see a lot more molecular signatures than ever before at these wavelengths,” says first author Andrew Barr of the University of Leiden in the Netherlands. life as we know it, and we just needed proper observations to see it. ”
Among the discovered compounds were organic substances: methane (CH4), hydrogen cyanide (HCN), acetylene (C2H2). Protoplanetary clouds also contained water (H2O), carbon monoxide (CO), ammonia (NH3), and a sulfur-carbon compound (CS). Thus, this “primordial soup” contains almost all the elements that are key for biological molecules: hydrogen, oxygen, carbon, nitrogen and sulfur. Only phosphorus is lacking.
By the way, the temperature in the parts of the protoplanetary disk closest to the star is higher than in any witch’s cauldron: about 300 degrees Celsius. So the chemical reactions must go very violently there. The listed simplest organic and inorganic compounds can become building blocks of complex organic matter there.
Scientists believe that a similar chemical composition should have protoplanetary disks not only of giant stars, but also of more modest luminaries, similar to the Sun. If this is so, then already at the stage of formation of planetary systems organic substances are abundantly created in them, which may one day give rise to life.