Propylene oxide’s two mirror-image forms could be clue to biological chirality
B. Saxton, NRAO/AUI/NSF from data provided by N.E. Kassim, Naval Research Laboratory, Sloan Digital Sky Survey
SAN DIEGO — A clue about why life on Earth chooses only one mirror-image form of certain molecules might lie in a gas cloud tens of thousands of light-years away.
For the first time, researchers have detected a chiral molecule, propylene oxide, in interstellar space. Chiral molecules, which come in two mirror-image versions, show up in many of life’s building blocks, such as the amino acids that make up proteins as well as sugars. The finding may be a step toward understanding why life prefers one of these versions over another.