Leiden – The first building blocks of life – complex molecules based on carbon and hydrogen – are created in space and can survive the hot phase of planet formation. This has been shown by an international team of researchers to detect methanol in a protoplanetary disk around a hot young star. Decisive steps in pre-biological evolution occur in cosmic clouds of gas and dust, scientists write Nature Astronomy Magazine.
Alice Booth and her colleagues at the University of Leiden, Netherlands, reported, “To estimate the potential of a planetary system around a star to produce life, we have to know the exact structure of the protoplanetary disk.” Now astrobiologists believe that the first pre-biological building block for the creation of life, for example, is brought to the surface of young planets by comets.
Methanol as a signal
In fact, astronomers were able to detect many organic molecules – molecules based on carbon and hydrogen – in large clouds of gas and dust. Methanol plays an important role in the formation of complex molecules such as amino acids and proteins. For astronomers, the evidence for this is therefore indicative of the existence of complex organic chemistry. But methanol is produced only in a relatively cool environment through the accumulation of hydrogen on carbon monoxide on the iced dust grain. Open Question: Can these prebiotic molecules withstand the heating of a disk of gas and dust around a young star in the phase of planet formation?
Booth and his colleagues have now found the answer to this question. Your comments with Alma, Atacama Large Millimeter / Submillimeter Array in Chile, show 5.8 million years old Star HD 100546, methanol in a protoplanetary disk around 360 light years. This star has almost twice the mass of our Sun and is therefore much larger. More luminous and warmer – and accordingly the planet heats its protoplanetary disk more than the Sun at the time of its formation.
Some molecules survive the heat of planet formation
At temperatures prevailing there, the team leading the Booth argument, methanol, cannot be produced – it would have previously been composed of a cool cloud of gas and dust from which the Star HD 100546 emerged. “This gives us a strong indication that at least some interstellar organic material can survive the formation of protoplanetary disks,” write Booth and his colleagues. “And so these substances are then available to the planets, moons, and comets that form. The first step in the creation of life takes place in space. (dpa / fwt)