Astronomers, observing protoplanet disk around very young protostar, detected presence of complex organic molecules. The groundbreaking discovery suggests that the building blocks of life are produced at the very first stages of star formation and may be incorporared into planets that form in the disk subsequently, creating primordial soup - term, introduced first by biologists Alexander Oparin and John Haldane. According to their theory, life on Eath originated through the transformation, during the gradual chemical evolution of particles that contain carbon in the primordial soup.
Herbig-Haro (HH)212 is a very young star in the constellation of Orion. "Very young" means that its estimated age is no more than 40 000 years - younger than our Homo Sapiens species. Located 1300 light years away, its central protostar has mass of only 0.2 of our Sun. It drives a powerful bipolar jet and thus must accrete material efficiently. Indeed, an accretion disk is seen feeding the protostar.
Image: ALMA (ESO/NAOJ/NRAO)/Lee et al. Solar system pictured in upper right corner for comparison. Jet, disk, and disk atmosphere in the HH 212 protostellar system.
The disk is nearly edge-on and has a radius of about 60 astronomical units (a. u.) For comparison, Pluto - Sun distance is 49 a.u. It has a prominent dark lane between two brighter features, looking like a space hamburger.
The organic compounds detected represent all ingredients of the primordial soup: methanol (CH3OH), deuterated methanol (CH2DOH), methanethiol (CH3SH) and formamide (NH2CHO) - critical components for biomolecules such as aminoacids and sugars. Almost all organics is located in the "bread" parts of the space hamburger.
Image: ASIAA/ Jung-Shan Chang
Co-author of the disovery Zhi-Yun Li of the University of Virginia, said:
They are likely formed on icy grains in the disk and then released into the gas phase because of heating from stellar radiation or some other means, such as shocks
The discovery was made with the help of the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA). The team plans to continue observations, and take a look at disks around other baby stars with ALMA imaging system. They hope to find more complex organic molecules and biomolecules that could shed light on the origin of life.
Source: The Astrophysical Journal