Sunday, August 07, 2005

Organic Molecules in the Early Universe

Nasa's infrared telescope (the Spitzer Telescope) has found traces of organic molocules that are believed to be about 10 billion years old:

Using Spitzer, scientists have detected organic molecules in galaxies when our universe was one-fourth of its current age of about 14 billion years. These large molecules, known as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, are comprised of carbon and hydrogen. The molecules are considered to be among the building blocks of life.

These complex molecules are very common on Earth. They form any time carbon-based materials are not burned completely. They can be found in sooty exhaust from cars and airplanes, and in charcoal broiled hamburgers and burnt toast.

The molecules, pervasive in galaxies like our own Milky Way, play a significant role in star and planet formation. Spitzer is the first telescope to see these molecules so far back in time.

The interesting part about this, to me, is that these molecules play a role in star and planet formation. Not being an astronomer I can only wonder at how many other organic molecules play a role in these processes.

You can also go here for more info.