Apr 23, 2009

Organic Molecules in Space

-FUPPETS- has discussed before how scientists are using spectral emissions to discover organic compounds in inter-stellar space. Scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy have used their instruments to detect two of the most complex organic molecules yet discovered away from Earth. The two molecules are ethyl formate and n-propyl cyanide.
This is an image of the two molecules.

Two new highly complex organic molecules detected in space. Top: Ethyl formate (C2H5OCHO). Bottom: n-Propyl cyanide (C3H7CN). Colour code of the atomic constituents of both molecules: hydrogen (H): white, carbon (C): grey, oxygen (O): red and nitrogen (N): blue. (Credit: Oliver Baum, University of Cologne)

According to their calculations, not only these complex molecules, but even more complex amino acids may be found flowing in the inter-stellar medium. Their discovery has yet to occur.

The IRAM 30 m telescope in Spain was used to detect emission from molecules in the star-forming region Sagittarius B2, close to the center of our galaxy. The two new molecules were detected in a hot, dense cloud of gas known as the "Large Molecule Heimat", which contains a luminous newly-formed star. Large, organic molecules of many different sorts have been detected in this cloud in the past, including alcohols, aldehydes, and acids. - ( Science Daily )

These compounds have very interesting qualities. Ethyl formate is created here on Earth when ethanol reacts with formic acid. It has the characteristic smell of rum! Ethyl formate is also responsible for the flavor of raspberries. Incredible! If you sip rum or taste a raspberry you are experiencing what it may be like to taste the universe!
N-Propyl cyanide, also known as n-Butyronitrile, is highly toxic and corrosive, and is one of the haz-mat controlled substances used in some chemical manufacturing.
It is amazing what we find when we look into our stellar neighborhood. It seems that more and more we see the organic compounds we most associate with life are spread far and wide.

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