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The most complex molecule from the deep space

Staff writer |
Take anthracene molecule, put in under ultraviolet radiation, add water and ammonia, and you'll get amino acids essential for the development of life. Well, there is a lot of anthracene in the deep space which means that complex organic molecules doesn't grow on Earth only.

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"We have detected the presence of anthracene molecules in a dense cloud in the direction of the star Cernis 52 in Perseus, about 700 light years from the Sun," explains Susana Iglesias Groth, the researcher leading the study. In her opinion, the next step is to investigate the presence of amino acids.

Molecules like anthracene are prebiotic, so when they are subjected to ultraviolet radiation and combined with water and ammonia, they could produce amino acids and other compounds essential for the development of life.

"Two years ago," says Iglesias, "we found proof of the existence of another organic molecule, naphthalene, in the same place, so everything indicates that we have discovered a star formation region rich in prebiotic chemistry."

Until now, anthracene had been detected only in meteorites and never in the interstellar medium. Oxidized forms of this molecule are common in living systems and are biochemically active. On our planet, oxidized anthracene is a basic component of aloe and has anti-inflammatory properties.

The new finding suggests that a good part of the key components in terrestrial prebiotic chemistry could be present in interstellar matter.

Since the 1980s, hundreds of bands found in the spectrum of the interstellar medium, known as diffuse spectroscopic bands, have been known to be associated with interstellar matter, but their origin has not been identified until now.

This discovery indicates that they could result from molecular forms based on anthracene or naphthalene. Since they are widely distributed in interstellar space, they might have played a key role in the production of many of the organic molecules present at the time of the formation of the Solar System.

Joana Rodeiro


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