Building blocks for life discovered in interstellar space by ALMA
Scientists have picked up traces of a molecule approximately 27,000 light years away from earth. Immediately, two questions arise.
Firstly, how on earth did they detect it? Well detecting something which is so small that you cannot see unless you have a microscope, from Twenty Seven Thousand light years away, seems rather impossible. Well, it’s not that impossible. Scientists used the ALMA (Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array) group of radio telescopes to carry out a complete spectral survey designed to search for the electromagnetic signatures of new interstellar molecules.
To put the distance in perspective- if you were travelling at light speed- which is essentially 300,000,000 meters per second and currently impossible- it would take you 27,000 earth years to get there. (lets not get special relativity into this shall we?).
Secondly, what is this exciting molecule? The molecule that they discovered there is called isopropyl cyanide (i-C3H7CN) which is an isomer (a variant) of the straight-chained molecule normal-propyl cyanide (n-C3H7CN) already known to be relatively abundant in space. However, the carbon backbone of the isopropyl cyanide molecule is “branched” in this newest detection, identifying it as a precursor molecule essential for such things as amino acids which, in turn, are crucial elements for the building blocks of proteins and life.
This finding does support the notion that complex life probably does exist in the universe, just we are yet to find it. What that life may look like is another argument all together- intelligent or not. Take this into account, with the rather small field of view that we have of our universe today and the sheer density of the known universe, and the odds are that we are not alone. The final thought I’ll leave you with is this: people once thought the earth was flat, and that the universe revolved around the Earth.
Also, check this out- it is rather cool and puts out galaxy into perspective: http://stars.chromeexperiments.com/