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"Origins" – Cosmic Molecules Foreshadow Earthly RNA & DNA



Posted on Jan 23, 2019

  rho Ophiuchi star area

Discovery of prebiotic molecules in sun type protostars increases our understanding of how the solar system formed as it indicates that planets created around the star could begin their existence with a supply of the chemical ingredients needed to create some form of life. This warm and dense region contains young stars in the earliest phase of their development surrounded by a cocoon of dust and gas-like relationship to those where our solar system was formed.

An organic molecule detected in the material from which a star schema could shed light on how life arose on Earth, according to new research led by Queen Mary University of London. The researchers report the first ever detection of glycolonitrile (HOCH2CN), a pre-biotic molecule that existed before the advent of life, in a solar type protostar known as IRAS16293-2422 B.

This finding was published in the journal Monthly Announcements of the Royal Astronomical Society: Letters are an important advance for pre-biotic astrochemistry, since glycolonitrile is recognized as an important precursor to the formation of adenine, one of the nucleobases that form both DNA and RNA in living organisms.

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IRAS16293-2422 B is a well-researched protostar in the constellation of Ophiuchus, in a region of star formation known as rho Ophiuchi, shown above about 450 light-years from Earth. ESO / Digitized Sky Study 2. Confirmation: Davide De Martin

The study was also conducted with Centro de Astrobiología in Spain, INAF-Osservatorio Astrofisico di Arcetri in Italy, the European Southern Observatory and the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in the United States.

Leader author Shaoshan Zeng of Queen Mary University of London said: "We have shown that this important prebiotic molecule can be formed in the material from which stars and planets emerge, taking us one step closer to identifying the processes that can have led to the origin of life on earth. "

 glycolonitrile (HOCH2CN), a prebiotic molecule

The researchers used data from the Atacama Large Millimeter / submillimeters Array (ALMA) telescope in Chile to uncover evidence of the presence of glycolonitrile in the material where the star is formed, known as the interstellar medium. Glycolonitrile image below. (Víctor M. Rivilla & Ben Mills & Herschel-SPIRE 500 microns) With the ALMA data, they could identify the chemical signatures of glycolonitrile and determine the conditions for the finding of the molecule. They also followed this by using chemical modeling to reproduce the observed data which allowed them to examine the chemical processes that could help understand the origin of this molecule.

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This follows the earlier detection of methyl isocyanate in the same subject by Queen Mary researchers. Methyl isocyanate is that known as an isomer of glycolonitrile. It consists of the same atoms, but in a slightly different arrangement, which means that it has different chemical properties.

Daily Galaxy via Queen Mary, University of London


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