January 22, 2022


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Scientists did not expect this.  A stellar cocoon of organic molecules on the edges of the Milky Way

Scientists did not expect this. A stellar cocoon of organic molecules on the edges of the Milky Way

Japanese scientists have discovered a newly born star and its surrounding cocoon of organic molecules at the border of the Milky Way.

A team of scientists from Niigata UniversityIn Taiwan, the Academia Sinica Institute of Astronomy and Astrophysics and the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan (NAOJ) used the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) radio interferometer to observe a newborn star (protostar) in the region WB89-789. This is a region in the outer reaches of the Milky Way. There, a cocoon of molecules of carbon, oxygen, nitrogen, sulfur and silicon was discovered, as well as complex organic molecules containing up to nine atoms. The results have been published in Astrophysical Journal.

Are organic molecules common in the Milky Way?

The observations made showed that various organic molecules – such as methanol (CH .)3OH), ethanol (C2h5OH), methyl formate (HCOOCH3), dimethyl ether (CH3And3), formamide (small2CHO), propanentrile (C2h5CN) – found even in the primary environment of the outer Milky Way. These compounds can be used as building blocks for larger prebiotic molecules.

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It should be noted that the abundance of organic molecules found in the outer parts of the Milky Way is similar to that already discovered by astronomers inside our galaxy. This is a very interesting observation, because according to our understanding of the universe, the edges of the Milky Way should be poor in star-forming regions.

Organic compounds discovered at the edges of the Milky Way

Because of their unique properties, the outer regions of the Milky Way are the ideal laboratory for studying star formation and the interstellar medium.

Thanks to ALMA, we were able to see star formation and the surrounding molecular cocoon at the edge of our galaxy. To our surprise, there are a variety of complex organic molecules in the original environment of the most distant galaxy. The interstellar conditions that made this complex matter possible may have existed since the early history of the universe.

Takashi Shimonichi, an astronomer at Niigata University and lead author

Unfortunately, it is currently unknown whether the observed diffusion of organic molecules is common to all regions of the Milky Way. Astronomers have already planned for the next series of observations of more star-forming regions.