Asymmetric Molecule, Key To Life, Detected In Space For First Time

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schwit1 quotes a report from Yahoo News: Scientists for the first time have found a complex organic molecule in space that bears the same asymmetric structure as molecules that are key to life on Earth. The researchers said on Tuesday they detected the complex organic molecule called propylene oxide in a giant cloud of gas and dust near the center of the Milky Way galaxy. Akin to a pair of human hands, certain organic molecules including propylene oxide possess mirror-like versions of themselves, a chemical property called chirality. Scientists have long pondered why living things make use of only one version of certain molecules, such as the ‘right-handed’ form of the sugar ribose, which is the backbone of DNA. The discovery of propylene oxide in space boosts theories that chirality has cosmic origins. The scientists in the new study used radio telescopes to ferret out the chemical details of molecules in the distant, star-forming cloud of gas and dust. As molecules move around in the vacuum of space they emit telltale vibrations that appear as distinctive radio waves. Future studies of how polarized light interacts with the molecules may reveal if one version of propylene oxide dominates in space, the researchers said. Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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Asymmetric Molecule, Key To Life, Detected In Space For First Time

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