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New organic molecule discovered in interstellar space

Date: 19 June 2020 Tags: Space

Issue

Near the centre of the Milky Way, astronomers have identified an organic molecule never before detected in the interstellar medium. It's called propargylimine, and it could play a key role in the formation of the amino acids vital for the emergence of life.

 

Background

The region in which the molecule was found is a system of clouds rich in molecular gas. It's called the Central Molecular Zone, an area of intense interest to astrochemists.

 

Details

  • The speciality of the chemical species lays in its carbon-nitrogen double bond, which gives it a high reactivity.

  • With this double bond, it becomes a fundamental constituent of the chemical chains that lead from the simplest and most abundant molecules in space containing carbon and nitrogen.

  • These are known as prebiotic molecules, since they play a role in the prebiotic processes that create the building blocks of life, such as amino acids, RNA, and DNA.

  • In addition, propargylimine is structurally similar to a number of organic molecules that have already been identified in space.

  • As a molecule rotates in the interstellar medium it emits photons at very precise frequencies.

  • This information, when combined with data from radio telescopes, allows scientists to know whether a molecule is present in the molecular clouds, the sites of star and planet formation.

  • Molecules with such a carbon-nitrogen double bond take part in the so called Strecker synthesis, a chemical process widely used to synthesize amino acids in laboratory.

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