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Home > News > PTI

Life's ingredients detected in far off galaxy: Report

January 15, 2008 11:44 IST

Astronomers claim to have discovered two ingredients that build life-forming amino acids -- the molecules methanimine and the hydrogen cyanide -- in a galaxy nearly 250 million light years away from Earth.

The group of astronomers at Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico have found the two ingredients in distant Arp 220, an ultra-luminous starburst galaxy, using the world's largest and most sensitive radio telescope.

When combined with water, the molecules form glycene, the simplest amino acid and a building block of life on Earth.
In fact, the researchers found the molecules by searching for radio emission at specific frequencies. Each chemical substance has its own unique radio frequency, much like people have unique fingerprints.

"We weren't targeting any particular molecule, so we didn't know what we were going to find -- we just started searching, and what we found was incredibly exciting," Tapasi Ghosh, an Arecibo astronomer, was quoted by the Science Daily as saying.

The Arecibo astronomers focused on the distant galaxy Arp 220 because it forms new stars at a very high rate.

"The fact that we can observe these substances at such a vast distance means that there are huge amounts of them in Arp 220. It's indeed intriguing to find that the ingredients of life appear in large quantities where new stars and planets are born," said Emmanuel Momjian, another astronomer.

The Arecibo astronomy team was led by Christopher Salter who has also announced the discovery recently at the American Astronomical Society meeting in Austin, Texas.


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