Webb discovers the ingredients of alcohol and vinegar around two young stars

ESA/WEP/NASA/CSA/W. Rocha et al./ESA/Web/ESA/Webb, NASA, CSA, W. Rocha et al

The James Webb Space Telescope's mid-infrared instrument captured an image of a region parallel to the massive protostar known as IRAS 23385. The protostar is not visible in this image.

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Astronomers using the James Webb Space Telescope have discovered common chemical components found in vinegar, ant stings and even margaritas around two young stars, according to NASA.

The complex organic molecules they observed using the space observatory's mid-infrared instrument included acetic acid, a component of vinegar, and ethanol – commonly known as alcohol.

The team also found trace molecules of formic acid, which causes the burning sensation associated with ant stings, as well as sulfur dioxide, methane and formaldehyde. Scientists believe that sulfur compounds such as sulfur dioxide may have played a key role on the early Earth, eventually paving the way for life to form.

The newly discovered particles were observed as icy compounds surrounding IRAS 2A and IRAS 23385, two protostars, or stars so young that they have not yet formed planets. stars They form from swirling clouds of gas and dustMaterial left over from star formation gives rise to planets.

The protostar IRAS 23385 is estimated to be located 15,981 light-years from Earth in the Milky Way, according to Previous search.

The new observation interests astronomers because molecules discovered around stars could be crucial components of potentially habitable worlds, and these components could be incorporated into planets that are likely to eventually form around stars.

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Space is full of heavy metals, elements, and chemical compounds created and released by star explosions over time. In turn, chemical elements fuse in clouds that form the next generation of stars and planets.

On Earth, the right combination of elements allowed life to form, and as the famous astronomer Carl Sagan once said: “We are made of star stuff.But astronomers have long wondered how common the elements necessary for life are throughout the universe.

Previously, scientists using the Web discovered species of Ice made up of different elements in a cold, dark molecular cloudAn interstellar mass of gas and dust where hydrogen and carbon monoxide molecules can form. Dense clumps within these clouds can collapse to form protostars.

Detecting complex organic molecules in space helps astronomers determine the origins of molecules as well as the origins of other larger cosmic molecules.


Webb's discoveries have revealed simple and complex molecules that could be used to create potentially habitable worlds.

Scientists believe that complex organic molecules are created by the sublimation of ice in space, or the process in which a solid changes into a gas without first becoming a liquid, and Webb's new discovery provides evidence of this theory.

“This discovery contributes to answering one of the long-standing questions in astrochemistry,” Will Rocha, team leader of the James Webb Small Protostar Observations Program and a postdoctoral researcher at Leiden University in the Netherlands, said in a statement. “What is the origin of complex organic molecules, or COM, in space? Are they made in the gas phase or in ice? The discovery of COMs in ice suggests that solid-phase chemical reactions on the surfaces of cold dust grains can build complex types of molecules.”

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A study detailing the new protostar findings has been accepted for publication in the journal Astronomy and astrophysics.

Understanding the form that complex organic molecules take can help astronomers better understand the ways in which molecules are incorporated into planets. Complex organic molecules trapped in the cold ice could eventually become part of comets or asteroids, which collide with planets and essentially provide the ingredients that can support life.

Chemicals found around protostars may reflect the early history of our solar system, allowing astronomers to glimpse what was there when the Sun and the planets orbiting it, including Earth, were forming.

“All of these molecules could become part of comets, asteroids and eventually new planetary systems when icy material is transported inward into the planet-forming disk as the star system evolves,” said Eoin van Dischhoek, professor of molecular astrophysics at Leiden University and co-author of the study. “Initial.” The university, in a statement. “We look forward to following this astrochemical path step by step with more Webb data in the coming years.”

The team dedicated their research findings to the study of co-author Harold Lennartz, who died unexpectedly in December shortly after the paper was accepted for publication.

Lennartz, who led the Leiden Astrophysical Laboratory and coordinated the measurements used in the study, was “a world leader in laboratory studies of gaseous and icy particles in interstellar space,” according to a statement from the center. Leiden University.

He is said to have been thrilled by the data Webb was able to capture, and what the results might mean for astrochemical research.

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“Harold was particularly pleased that laboratory work on COM missions could play an important role since it has been a long time coming to get here,” Van Dyschock said.

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