A team of physicists has discovered that the molecular cloud environment in interstellar space could support the presence of fatty acids, an essential ingredient for life on Earth.
Astronomers have made great strides over the past few years in identifying a variety of organic and prebiotic molecules in interstellar gas clouds. Rich in carbon and oxygen, these molecules are the building blocks of chemistry used in life. For example, astronomers recently discovered some of them Amino acidswhich are the basic components of all proteins used by life on Earth.
As astronomers continue to discover more than ever before complex organic molecules, it is natural to wonder what else could be there. But space is an exceptionally harsh environment for life, and not only because of it Low temperaturesbut also because of the intense radiation that is constantly pouring through any area of the interstellar space.
Despite these challenges, a team of physicists ran a series of computer simulations of a typical interstellar environment and discovered that fatty acids can form and become lodged there. Fatty acids are chains of carbon and hydrogen atoms Which are the building blocks for every type of fat we consume and maintain in our bodies.
The researchers discovered that carbon and hydrogen can naturally bind together despite the low temperatures and low pressure environments of the interstellar gas clouds. These chains then form stable bonds that can last for long periods of time. Their research is available at arXiv Prepress server.
Fatty acids also combine with amino acids to form more complex protein structures, so the discovery of fatty acids in nebulae will confirm that the ingredients for life are abundant throughout the universe.
To find these fatty acids, astronomers have discovered that we can use existing technologies. One such technique is called microwave rotation spectroscopy. the fatty acids They can rotate in certain ways emitting certain frequencies of microwave radiation that we can detect. More observations will be necessary to discover if these fundamental components really exist in the depths of space.
Fangjing Mu et al, A theoretical study on potential current shapes and microwave rotation spectroscopy of short-chain fatty acids in interstellar space, arXiv (2023). doi: 10.48550/arxiv.2305.04762
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