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Starlight Origin of Building Blocks of Life

Oct 15, 2016 03:49 AM EDT
True-Color Deep Space Image Taken In Southern Sky
Lights coming from young star could have a big influence to molecules that are considered as the building blocks of life.
(Photo : ESO/Getty Images)

Life, in general, is mysterious at the same time amusing. Until today, scientists are pondering on the origin of life. Breaking down any life form it all boils down to basic molecules and based on ESA's data, these molecules are highly influenced by ultraviolet lights also called "starlights."

Any organism can be dissected to find the most basic unit of its being; it is composed of carbon atoms with a combination of oxygen, nitrogen, hydrogen and other building elements. These elements are considered the "building blocks" of life. With the help of the European Space Agency's (ESA) Herschel Observatory, astronomers gathered new information about molecules. Based on the study one of the key elements in building molecules is ultraviolet lights from stars. Previously, it is believed that "shocks" coming from turbulence causes the formation of molecules.

The findings are based on the study of the Orion Nebula and its carbon composition. Orion Nebula is the nearest stellar region on Earth where massive stars are born. Astronomers conducted the study by mapping the temperature, amount and movements of carbon-hydrogen molecule (CH), carbon-hydrogen positive ion (CH+) nad carbon ion (C+). Ions have an imbalance of protons and electrons that result in net changes.

"On Earth, the sun is the driving source of almost all the life on Earth. Now, we have learned that starlight drives the formation of chemicals that are precursors to chemicals that we need to make life," Patrick Morris, first author of the paper and researcher at the Infrared Processing and Analysis Center at Caltech in Pasadena said in a statement.

Scientists thought there were only CH and CH+ but thanks to ESA's Herschel Observatory it was established that CH+ is also giving out light instead of absorbing them. This means CH+ is also warmer when compared to the gas surrounding it. It is considered mysterious by scientists because CH+ molecules needed more energy to form and this is also the reason why it can easily be destroyed when it reacts with hydrogen cloud.

Scientists are currently trying to find out why there's an abundance of CH+ in the Orion Nebula. This is where Herschel becomes vital in the study because it is capable of observing far infrared of cold objects that no telescopes were able to capture before in the area of the electromagnetic spectrum.

But based on the available data, scientists believe that CH+ could have formed from ultraviolet emissions of stars also called "starlight." If CH+, the most basic form of an organism, then it makes sense to say that starlight is playing a big role in the formation of life.


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