adidas vintage Large Magellanic Cloud Contains Surprisingly Complex Organic Molecules

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Astronomers using ALMA have uncovered chemical “fingerprints” of methanol, dimethyl ether, and methyl formate in the Large Magellanic Cloud. The latter two molecules are the largest organic molecules ever conclusively detected outside the Milky Way. The far infrared image on the left shows the full galaxy. The zoom in image shows the star forming region observed by ALMA. It is a combination of mid infrared data from Spitzer and visible (H alpha) data from the Blanco 4 meter telescope. Credit: NRAO/AUI/NSF; ALMA (ESO/NAOJ/NRAO); Herschel/ESA; NASA/JPL Caltech; NOAO

The nearby dwarf galaxy known as the Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC) is a chemically primitive place. Unlike the Milky Way, this semi spiral collection of a few tens of billions of stars lacks our galaxy’s rich abundance of heavy elements, like carbon, oxygen, and nitrogen. With such a dearth of heavy elements, astronomers predict that the LMC should contain comparatively paltry amounts of complex carbon based molecules. Previous observations of the LMC seem to support that view.

New observations with the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA), however, have uncovered the surprisingly clear chemical “fingerprints” of the complex organic molecules methanol, dimethyl ether, and methyl formate. Though previous observations found hints of methanol in the LMC, the latter two are unprecedented findings and stand as the most complex molecules ever conclusively detected outside of our galaxy.

Astronomers discovered the molecules’ faint millimeter wavelength “glow” emanating from two dense star forming embryos in the LMC, regions known as “hot cores.” These observations may provide insights into the formation of similarly complex organic molecules early in the history of the universe.

Astronomers refer to this lack of heavy elements as “low metallicity.” It takes several generations of star birth and star death to liberally seed a galaxy with heavy elements, which then get taken up in the next generation of stars and become the building blocks of new planets.

“Young, primordial galaxies simply didn’t have enough time to become so chemically enriched,” said Sewio. At least a portion of this star formation is due to a domino like effect, where the formation of massive stars triggers the formation of other stars in the same general vicinity.

Sewio and her colleagues used ALMA to study several young stellar objects in this region to better understand their chemistry and dynamics. The ALMA data surprisingly revealed the telltale spectral signatures of dimethyl ether and methyl formate, molecules that have never been detected so far from Earth.

Complex organic molecules, those with six or more atoms including carbon, are some of the basic building blocks of molecules that are essential to life on Earth and presumably elsewhere in the universe. Though methanol is a relatively simple compound compared to other organic molecules, it nonetheless is essential to the formation of more complex organic molecules, like those that ALMA recently observed, among others.

Astronomers using ALMA have uncovered chemical “fingerprints” of methanol, dimethyl ether, and methyl formate in the Large Magellanic Cloud. The latter two molecules are the largest organic molecules ever conclusively detected outside the Milky Way. The far infrared image on the left shows the full galaxy. The zoom in image shows the star forming region observed by ALMA. It is a combination of mid infrared data from Spitzer and visible (H alpha) data from the Blanco 4 meter telescope. Credit: NRAO/AUI/NSF; ALMA (ESO/NAOJ/NRAO); Herschel/ESA; NASA/JPL Caltech; NOAO

If these complex molecules can readily form around protostars, it’s likely that they would endure and become part of the protoplanetary disks of young star systems. Such molecules were likely delivered to the primitive Earth by comets and meteorites, helping to jumpstart the development of life on our planet. Sewio, et al., which appears in the Astrophysical Journal Letters.

The research team was composed by Marta Sewilo [1], Remy Indebetouw [2, 3], Steven B. Charnley [1], Sarolta Zahorecz [4, 5], Joana M. Oliveira [6],
adidas vintage Large Magellanic Cloud Contains Surprisingly Complex Organic Molecules
Jacco Th. van Loon [6], Jacob L. Ward [7], C. H. Rosie Chen [8], Jennifer Wiseman [1], Yasuo Fukui [9], Akiko Kawamura [10], Margaret Meixner [11], Toshikazu Onishi [4], and Peter Schilke [12].

[1] NASA Postdoctoral Program Fellow, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, 8800 Greenbelt Rd, Greenbelt, MD 20771, USA

[2] Department of Astronomy, University of Virginia, PO Box 400325, Charlottesville, VA 22904, USA

[3] National Radio Astronomy Observatory, 520 Edgemont Rd, Charlottesville, VA 22903, USA

[4] Department of Physical Science, Graduate School of Science, Osaka Prefecture University, 1 1 Gakuen cho, Naka ku, Sakai, Osaka, 599 8531, Japan

[5] Chile Observatory, National Astronomical Observatory of Japan, National Institutes of Natural Science, 2 21 1 Osawa, Mitaka, Tokyo, 181 8588, Japan

[6] Lennard Jones Laboratories, Keele University, ST5 5BG, UK[8] Max Planck Institut fr Radioastronomie, Auf dem Hgel, 69 D 53121 Bonn, Germany
adidas vintage Large Magellanic Cloud Contains Surprisingly Complex Organic Molecules