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James Webb makes a strange discovery in deep space: alcohol

James Webb makes a strange discovery in deep space: alcohol

The powerful eye of NASA's James Webb Space Telescope has identified biochemicals around two young stars. Yes, the telescope found ethanol (the alcohol found in alcoholic beverages) as well as another ingredient found in vinegar. Are these “signs from aliens”?

Image from NASA's James Webb Telescope

NASA is looking for habitable worlds with Earth-like conditions

Astronomers turned The space observatory, which orbits 1,609,340 kilometers from Earth, to the cosmic regions around these protostars, which are so young that they have not yet formed planets. However, they almost certainly will: NASA suspects that almost every star has at least one planet.

As such, in these planet-forming regions, the Webb telescope has detected “complex organic molecules,” including ethanol. More importantly, these components, which form in icy materials in cold space, could one day become part of future solar system bodies, including large asteroids that could transport organic molecules and important materials to planets. We remember that much of Earth's water, for example, probably came from asteroid impacts.

The Webb telescope carries instruments, called spectrometers, that can detect the composition of distant objects or places, such as the atmospheres of alien planets. Spectrographs separate the light coming from these objects, similar to a prism. Different elements or molecules absorb different types of light, so the light Webb sees can distinguish which chemicals are present and which are not.

The first image below shows the different spectra of light captured by Webb Note the distant protostar IRAS 2A. Ethanol was present in various groups of glacial materials.

Complex organic molecules identified by the James Webb Space Telescope around the protostar IRAS 2A. Source: NASA / ESA / CSA / L. Hustak (STScI) // Science: W. Rocha (Leiden University)"

According to NASA, in addition to alcohol, the Webb telescope identified formic acid, methane, and possibly acetic acid. These are "essential ingredients for creating potentially habitable worlds," the researchers said. Space agency.

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A habitable world is one in which the conditions necessary to sustain life exist, although this does not necessarily mean that life exists there. NASA is currently searching for potentially habitable worlds, some of which might resemble Earth covered in oceans.

This image was taken by MIRI (Mid-Infrared Instrument) on NASA's James Webb Space Telescope of a region close to the protostar known as IRAS 23385. The image is a single exposure at a wavelength of 15 micrometers, which has been assigned the orange color. .

The powerful capabilities of the Webb telescope

The Webb Telescope — a scientific collaboration between NASA, the European Space Agency and the Canadian Space Agency — is designed to delve into the deepest universe and uncover new knowledge about the early universe. But it also detects interesting planets in our galaxy, along with the planets and moons of our solar system.

Here's how Webb achieved unprecedented feats and will likely continue to do so for decades:

  • Giant mirror: A web mirror that captures light has a diameter of more than 6.4 metres. This is two and a half times larger than the Hubble Space Telescope's mirror. Capturing more light allows Webb to see more distant and ancient objects. As shown above, the telescope observes stars and galaxies that formed more than 13 billion years ago, a few hundred million years after the Big Bang.
  • Infrared vision: Unlike Hubble, which primarily observes light visible to us, Webb is primarily an infrared telescope, meaning it observes light in the infrared spectrum. This allows us to see more of the universe. Infrared radiation has longer wavelengths than visible light, so light waves pass more efficiently through cosmic clouds; Light does not collide much and is not scattered much by these densely packed molecules. Ultimately, Webb's infrared vision can penetrate places where Hubble cannot.
  • A peek at distant exoplanetsAs mentioned earlier, the Webb Telescope carries specialized equipment, namely spectrometers, that will revolutionize our understanding of these distant worlds. These devices can decipher molecules (such as water, carbon dioxide, and methane) in the atmospheres of distant exoplanets, whether they are gas giants or smaller rocky worlds. Webb will observe exoplanets in the Milky Way. Who knows what we will discover?
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Astronomers have now successfully found it Interesting chemical reactions on a planet 700 light-years awayAs described above, the observatory has begun observing one of the most unlikely places in the universe: the rocky, Earth-sized planets in the TRAPPIST solar system.