Asymmetric Molecule ‘Propylene Oxide’ Discovered Near Milky Way; Crucial To Life, Say Scientists

First Posted: Jun 15, 2016 06:00 AM EDT

A complex asymmetric molecule similar to the organic molecular structure crucial to life on Earth has been discovered by scientists. A research team has recently found "propylene oxide" in a vast cloud of gas and dust close to the center of the Milky Way galaxy.

The asymmetric molecule propylene oxide has mirror-like versions of themselves called "chirality," which is comparable to a pair of human hands. This breakthrough gives support to the theory that chirality has cosmic origins. According to Brett McGuire, a chemist at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory in Charlottesville, Virginia, it is a huge leap to better understand the way prebiotic molecules are produced in the universe, as well as the effects that they bring on the origins of life.

This asymmetric molecule that is considered significant to biology, have been uncovered previously in the meteorites found on Earth and in comets in the solar system, but not in the massive belt of interstellar space, according to Daily Mail.

The findings give support to the idea that the chemical building blocks for life have been brought to Earth early in its history through celestial bodies such as comets and meteorites that included such molecules from space. For the first time, the researchers discovered the amino acid gycine that is needed by the living organisms in producing proteins on a comet.

With the use of radio telescopes the scientists actively searched for the chemical information of molecules in the far, star-forming cloud of gas and dust. Relevant vibrations that seemed like strange radio waves were emitted as the molecules move around in the space. However, the complex signals linked to propylene oxide were not accurate enough for the researchers to find out if the molecules were particularly aimed to the left or to the right. As explained by chemistry graduate student Brandon Carroll of the California Institute of Technology, it is difficult to determine if the right or left hand is casting the shadow. Nevertheless, further studies on how polarized light connects with the molecules may indicate if one version of propylene oxide is dominant in space.

The research on asymmetric molecule was published in the journal Science presented by the scientists during a meeting at the American Astronomical Society in San Diego, Reuters reported.

See Now: NASA's Juno Spacecraft's Rendezvous With Jupiter's Mammoth Cyclone

©2017 All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission. The window to the world of science news.

Join the Conversation

Real Time Analytics