Your health! “Webb” discovered ethyl alcohol in the protoplanetary disk

Your health! “Webb” discovered ethyl alcohol in the protoplanetary disk

What do a margarita cocktail, vinegar and an ant bite have in common? They contain chemical ingredients that NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope discovered in the vicinity of two young protostars known as IRAS 2A and IRAS 23385. Although planets around these stars have not yet formed, these and other molecules identified by Webb are the ingredients for creating potentially habitable worlds. The study was accepted for publication in the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics.

An international team of astronomers using Webb’s MIRI (Mid-Infrared Instrument) discovered a number of icy compounds consisting of complex organic molecules such as ethanol (ethyl alcohol) and probably acetic acid (an ingredient in vinegar). This work builds on Webb’s previous detections of a variety of ices in the cold, dark molecular cloud.

This 15-micron wavelength image was taken by NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope’s Mid-Infrared Instrument (MIRI) in the vicinity of a protostar known as IRAS 23385. IRAS 23385 and IRAS 2A (not visible in this image) by astronomers who, using the “ Webb’ found that the key ingredients for creating potentially habitable worlds are present in early-stage protostars where planets have not yet formed.

“This finding answers one of the long-standing questions of astrochemistry,” says team leader Will Rocha of Leiden University in the Netherlands. — What is the origin of complex organic molecules, or SOM, in space? Do they appear in gas or ice? The detection of SOM in ice suggests that solid-phase chemical reactions on the surface of cold dust grains can create complex types of molecules.”

Because some COMs, including those detected in the solid phase in this study, were previously detected in the warm gas phase, they are now believed to result from sublimation ice. Sublimation is the transition directly from a solid to a gas without transformation into a liquid. Therefore, the detection of COM in ice allows astronomers to hope for a better understanding of the origin of other, even larger molecules in space.

Scientists also want to find out how these SOMs are transferred to planets at much later stages of protostellar evolution. SOMs in cold ices are thought to be more easily transported from molecular clouds to planet-forming disks than warm gaseous molecules. Therefore, icy COMs can be incorporated into comets and asteroids, which in turn can collide with forming planets, delivering the ingredients for the possible emergence of life.

The team also found simpler molecules, including formic acid (which causes the burning sensation of an ant bite), methane, formaldehyde and sulfur dioxide. Studies show that sulfur-containing compounds, such as sulfur dioxide, played an important role in driving metabolic reactions on the early Earth.

NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope’s MIRI (Mid-Infrared Instrument) has discovered a number of complex organic molecules found in the interstellar ice surrounding two protostars. These molecules, which are key ingredients for creating potentially habitable worlds, include ethanol, formic acid, methane, and probably acetic acid in the solid phase. The discovery was made by studying two protostars, IRAS 2A and IRAS 23385, which are so young that they have not yet formed planets.

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