Possible Life Enabling Molecules Found in Orion Nebula


Water and organics show up as spikes in this spectrum of the Orion Nebula. Image credit Nasa

The Orion Nebula is a vast star forming region 24 light years across, located in the Sword of Orion. It shows up a bright nebulous patch visible in the smallest of telescopes or even binoculars. The different life stages of stars have been seen here, new born stars, collapsing clouds of gas and dust, and proto-planetary disks that are new solar systems in formation. The Orion Nebula or M42 is the closest region of massive star formation to earth, and one of the most photographed and studied of all deep sky objects by both amateur and professional astronomers.

But now the Herschel Space Observatory has detected potential life enabling molecules in this vast nebula of turbulent chemistry and star birth. The graph above shows organics such as water, sulphur dioxide, methanol, sulphur oxide, hydrogen cyanide, dimethyl ether, carbon monoxide, and formaldehyde.

We have now found organic molecules, the building blocks of life in different places including comets, meteorites, and nebulae. In our tiny corner of the universe we’ve found what seems be the raw materials of what is required in order to ignite life, if the right conditions are met. We do not even know for sure that we’re not sharing this solar system with other life forms living on various moons. Although if it does exist it will probably be microbial life…but life is life.

In time we will probably discover that life is common throughout the universe, the conditions for it’s emergence exist everywhere, and we are really not that special at all.

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