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Astronomers discover traces of methyl chloride around infant stars and nearby comet

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Owlscrying
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Unread post Mon Oct 02, 2017 6:34 pm

Astronomers using the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) have detected the faint molecular fingerprint of methyl chloride - a chemical commonly produced by industrial and biological processes here on Earth - around an infant star system known as IRAS 16293-2422. Traces of this organic compound were also discovered in the thin atmosphere of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko (67P/C-G) by the Rosetta space probe.

Methyl chloride (CH3Cl), also known as Freon-40, is one of a class of molecules known as organohalogens. This new ALMA observation is the first detection ever of a stable organohalogen in interstellar space. The results are published in the journal Nature Astronomy.

The cosmic discovery of this organic compound, however, is disappointing news for astrobiologists, who previously suggested searching for methyl chloride in the atmospheres of alien worlds as a possible indicator of life. The recent ALMA and Rosetta detections raise doubts about that proposal, however. They indicate that methyl chloride forms naturally in interstellar clouds and endures long enough to become part of a forming solar system.

IRAS 16293-2422 is a collection of several infant stars, or protostars, each about the same mass as our Sun. It is located about 400 light-years from Earth and is still surrounded by its natal cocoon of dust and gas.

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Owlscrying
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Unread post Mon Oct 02, 2017 6:36 pm

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Credit: B. Saxton (NRAO/AUI/NSF); NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA

Organohalogen methyl chloride discovered by ALMA around the infant stars in IRAS 16293-2422. These same organic compounds were discovered in the thin atmosphere surrounding 67P/C-G by the Rosetta space probe. The background image of the Rho Ophiuchi cloud complex is from NASA's Wide-field Infrared Explorer (WISE).

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Owlscrying
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Unread post Mon Oct 02, 2017 6:38 pm



Researchers using the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) have discovered a rotating ring containing large organic molecules around a protostar. This observation definitively shows that organic materials formed in interstellar space are brought into the planet-forming region. Researchers also found that the molecular species brought into the planet-forming region vary from one protostar to another. Chemical composition is a new way to answer the long-standing question of whether or not the Solar System is a typical example of a planetary system.

 
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Owlscrying
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Unread post Mon Oct 02, 2017 6:39 pm



This video starts with a broad panorama of the spectacular central regions of the Milky Way seen in visible light. It then zooms in to the Rho Ophiuchi star-forming region in infrared light, highlighting IRAS 16293-2422. Finally, we see an artist's impression of glycolaldehyde molecules, showing glycolaldehyde's molecular structure (C2H4O2).

Carbon atoms are shown as grey, oxygen atoms as red, and hydrogen atoms as white. A team of astronomers has found molecules of glycolaldehyde — a simple form of sugar — in the gas surrounding a young binary star, with similar mass to the Sun, called IRAS 16293-2422. This is the first time sugar been found in space around such a star, and the discovery shows that the building blocks of life are in the right place, at the right time, to be included in planets forming around the star.

 
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