Scientists found the building blocks of life most likely exist in regions where stars are born.
Complex organic molecules, such as formamide, have been detected in five protostellar clouds, Plataforma SINC reported. The findings suggest these molecules form on tiny dust grains.
"We have detected formamide in five protosuns, which proves that this molecule (in all probability also true for our Solar System) is relatively abundant in molecular clouds and is formed in the very early stages of evolution towards a star and its planets," said Ana López Sepulcre, lead author of the study and researcher at the University of Tokyo (Japan).
Five other regions in which the researchers searched for these molecules proved to be barren, but were much colder and less evolved. This suggests a minimum temperature is essential for formamide to be detected in gas. The findings also provide insight into how formamide can be created in interstellar conditions.
"We propose that it is formed on the surface of the dust grains of the molecular clouds from isocyanic acid (HNCO), by a process of hydrogenation or addition of hydrogen atoms," López Sepulcre said. "Formamide formed in this way remains attached to the dust grain until the temperature is high enough (in other words, until the protostar evolves) to cause its sublimation," she argues. "And that is when we can detect it with radio telescopes."
Formamide is not the only possible prebiotic organic molecule that has been spotted in space, this month methyl cyanide (CH3CN) was discovered around the young star MWC 480, which isalready in a protoplanetary stage.
"This other study demonstrates that complex molecules survive until the later stages of stellar formation, and even continue forming afterwards," López Sepulcre said. "It contains oxygen (another essential element for life) and is a strong candidate as a precursor of prebiotic material, as not only amino acids can be formed from it (which could also be synthesised from CH3CN), but also nucleic acids and bases, or rather genetic material."
The findings were published in a recent edition of the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.