Known as the methyl cation (CH3+), this compound is key to the formation of more complex carbon molecules.
Thanks to observations made with NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope, an international team of researchers was able to detect for the first time in space a carbon compound known as methyl cation (CH3+), essential for the formation of more complex carbon molecules. reported the US agency.
According to the scientists, this compound was discovered in the protoplanetary disk of a young star system called d203-506, located in the Orion nebula, about 1,350 light years from our solar system.
This seemingly simple molecule has a unique property: it reacts efficiently with hydrogen, the most abundant element in our universe, and also readily reacts with other elements, an essential feature for the formation of more complex carbon-based molecules, which It forms the basis of all known life.
An unexpected power source
Although UV radiation generally destroys complex organic molecules, under certain conditions, according to the team’s observations, it could provide a source of energy to form CH3+ molecules, as well as trigger additional chemical reactions to form more complex carbon molecules.
In this case, the d203-506 system, although its star is a small red dwarf with a mass only one-tenth that of the Sun, is constantly bombarded by intense ultraviolet radiation from nearby hot, young, massive stars, making it which allowed the formation of the methyl cation.
“This clearly demonstrates that ultraviolet radiation can completely change the chemistry of a protoplanetary disk. In fact, it could play a fundamental role in the early chemical stages of the origin of life,” said Olivier Berne, co-author of the study.
The discovery of the compound, points out the European Space Agency, was possible thanks to the joint work between observational astronomers, astrochemists, theoretical and experimental spectroscopists, who combined the unique capabilities of James Webb with those of terrestrial laboratories to shed new light on the composition and evolution of the universe.
The full results of the research were published Monday in an article in the journal Nature.
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