NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) has for the first time discovered a brand new carbon compound in the home of all identified life.
The molecule, often called methyl cation (CH3+), was found in a younger galaxy about 1,350 light-years away in the Orion Nebula, a huge cloud of mud and gasoline where huge numbers of recent stars are ejected.
CH3+ is thought to be especially necessary because it readily reacts with many different molecules, and scientists suspect that it is a cornerstone of natural interstellar chemistry.
The discovery, led by France’s National Center for Scientific Research in Toulouse, will give astronomers further clues about how the universe came to be here.
The molecule was located in a younger galaxy about 1,350 light-years away in the Orion Nebula, a huge cloud of mud and gasoline where huge numbers of recent stars are ejected.
Science team member Marie-Aline Martin-Drumel of the University of Paris-Saclay in France said in a press release: “This discovery not only confirms the incredible sensitivity of the Web, but also supports the postulated centrality of CH3+ in the interstellar system. chemistry.’
The molecule was discovered in a new galaxy with a protoplanetary disk known as d203-506.
A protoplanetary disk is a rotating circular disk of dense gas around a young, newly formed star.
Although the star d203-506 is a small red dwarf, the system is bombarded by intense ultraviolet (UV) light from nearby hot, young, massive stars.
Scientists believe that most planet-forming disks experience intense UV radiation because stars tend to form in clusters that often contain massive, UV-emitting stars.
And most complex organic molecules are destroyed by UV radiation, which scientists say is the surprise discovery of CH3+.
But in this case, the radiation could activate the molecule, allowing it to form in the first place.
The study states: “This finding not only confirms Webb’s incredible sensitivity, but also confirms the postulated centrality of CH3+ to interstellar chemistry.”
Generally speaking, the team notes that the molecules they saw in d203-506 are quite different from typical protoplanetary disks. In particular, they could not detect any signs of water.
Lead author Olivier Bernet, from the French National Center for Scientific Research in Toulouse, said: “This clearly shows that ultraviolet radiation can completely change the chemical composition of a protoplanetary disk.
“It could even play a crucial role in the early stages of the emergence of chemical life.”
Experts believe JWST—perhaps the most efficient facility ever introduced—will help the leading company discover a an exoplanet that will be hospitable within the next 25 years.
Astrophysicist Sasha Kwan of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology believes that aliens will probably be confirmed in two and a half years, but JWST didn’t get it – its successors will.
These claims echo a recent study from the University of California, which says aliens will communicate with humans by 2029, but won’t use telescopes.
JWST has already detected carbon dioxide and sulfur dioxide in the atmospheres of two extrasolar exoplanets, the first observations of their kind.
That’s because JWST can analyze molecules in the atmospheres of distant worlds and identify those that matter forever.
Building on JWST’s expertise and success, NASA is building a multibillion-dollar successor that should search for life on Earth-sized planets as early as the early 2040s.
The Observatory for Habitable Worlds (HabEx) will look specifically at the skies of Earth-like “exoplanets” to determine life indicators.