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Ingredient of life found around infant Sun-like stars

9 June 2017 Astronomy Now

ALMA has observed stars like the Sun at a very early stage in their formation and found traces of methyl isocyanate — a chemical building block of life. This is the first ever detection of this prebiotic molecule towards solar-type protostars, the sort from which our Solar System evolved.

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Detection of methanol shows comets are forming in distant solar system

16 June 2016 Astronomy Now

Astronomers have found the organic molecule methyl alcohol, or methanol, in the protoplanetary disc of TW Hydrae, 175 light-years from Earth — the first such detection of this chemical compound in a young planet-forming disc. Since methanol forms on the icy coatings of dust grains, this discovery provides a window into the region where comets are likely forming.

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Rosetta’s Comet 67P contains ingredients for life

28 May 2016 Astronomy Now

The possibility that water and organic molecules were brought to the early Earth through cometary impacts has long been the subject of important debate. Now, ingredients crucial for the origin of life on Earth, including the simple amino acid glycine and phosphorus — key components of DNA and cell membranes — have been discovered at Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko.