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Interstellar chemical resembles building blocks of life

Newfound molecule has branched structure akin to amino acids’

1:01pm, September 26, 2014
Sagittarius B2

MOLECULAR FOG  Sagittarius B2, the bright orange-red region left of center in this radio-infrared image, is a cloud of dust and gas around 26,000 light-years from Earth. It may host complex chemicals that are fundamental to life.

A cold cloud of gas and dust near the center of the galaxy may create the molecular ingredients for life.

By searching the cloud called Sagittarius B2, researchers found the first branched organic chemical discovered in interstellar space: isopropyl cyanide. Its branched structure resembles that of many amino acids, fundamental components of life on Earth that link together to form proteins. The discovery, reported in the Sept. 26 Science, hints that compounds essential to life may arise in the mass of molecules between the stars before making their way to Earth and other planets.

The long-sought discovery corroborates chemical evidence collected from meteorites. Over the last four decades or so, scientists have found more than 80 types of amino acids in meteorites. Though the molecular cargo may assemble on those space rocks, some of the molecules may also be mere passengers, having been

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