Updated 09:31 AM EST, Tue, Nov 24, 2020

Life-Sustaining Star System Identified! Planets, Moons & Asteroids Expected to Form Soon

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Scientists have discovered a star system's molecules containing the chemistry for life.

According to Discovery News, a group of astronomers at the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) observatory located in Chile found "complex organic molecules in a planet-forming disk of gas, dust and ice swirling around a very young star" called the MWC 480. These organic molecules are evidence that building blocks that support life aren't all that uncommon in the universe.

"From my point of view, it's really good news that we're not that special," said lead author Karin Öberg, an astrochemist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, as quoted by LA Times. "We know that life originated somehow in the solar system - and it would be very exciting if it also originated somewhere else. Having the same kind of chemistry present removes one more barrier to that being true."

Öberg added that the disks located around MWC 480, which is located about 455 light-years away, are "rich in water and simple organics," Discovery News reported.

The organic molecules were found about 3 billion miles to 9 billion miles from the central star, Discovery News reported.

Aside from these, the study also demonstrated that proto-planetary disks are active engines of chemical synthesis, given that these disks have the tendency to coalesce to form planets in the course of time. These complex chemicals' life-bearing elements are important for the birth of planetary systems, the news outlet noted.

According to LA Times, it wasn't Öberg and her team's intention to look for complex organic molecules around the MWC 480. However, they found a "surprising signal" that appeared to be coming from complex cyanides once they went over the gathered data. Along with hydrogen cyanide, the team also found cyanoacetylene and methyl cyanide

Cyanides could come off as an unhealthy sort of molecule to be involved in building life, but Öberg stated that cyanides are "highly reactive" and are important antecedents for pre-biotic chemistry, LA Times noted.

"The molecules that are good for sustaining life are not necessarily the same ones that are good for the origins of life," Öberg explained, as reported by the news outlet. She added that the next step for their research is to identify whether the different kinds of stars existing in our galaxy also have similar types of organics, Discovery News wrote.

NASA chief scientist Ellen Stofan said that our solar system is not that special when it comes to sustaining life. The building blocks for carbon-based life could also be present in other galaxies as well, Discovery News reported.

"Obviously we're very biased by what we understand of life here on Earth," Stofan added, as quoted by the news outlet. "So given that the right building blocks are out there, given that there's water out there, that's what makes us really lean toward looking for life like it is here on Earth."

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