This mosaic of the Taurus Molecular Cloud is made from observations of nearby pre-stellar clouds, located 450 light-years from Earth. Young stars like HL Tauri — about 3 million years old — call these stellar nurseries home. But before the emergence of proper stars, all we have are massive regions of raw gas —
with lifespans of less than a million years. Driven by processes like turbulence and gravitational forces, the gas and dust in the molecular cloud collapses to form filaments, and it is within those filaments that the denser cores form.
Gravity and turbulence behave like cosmic thumbs and index fingers, weaving an intricate network of filaments, teeming with bright clumps: the seeds of future stars. The bright clumps of molecular threads — as long as 1,000 solar systems lined next to each other — are rich in molecules made out of elements that life requires: C, O, & H.
“The basic organic chemistry needed for life is present in the raw gas prior to the formation of stars and planets”
— Yancy Shirley
Volatile organic compounds that invade our noses when we wake up to the smell of coffee — or when we hike through a tropical rainforest, its floor littered with ripe fruit—are common in these molecular clouds. These compounds are methane and acetaldehydes.
“[H]ow precursors to life came into existence, how they migrate and enter solar systems at later stages of star formation”
— Samantha Scibelli
The simplest hydrocarbon, methane, does not require the heat and pressure that stars are famous for. In other words, statements such as Stars as hearths for the stuff of life have to be reviewed in light of these findings, which show an important chapter — or prologue — of the emergence of solar systems:
“Our solar system was born in a cloud like this, but the cloud is not there anymore for us to see,” she said. “Looking at objects in space is a bit like looking at a photo album with snapshots taken of different people at different stages of life, from their baby days all the way to old age, and in our case starless cores serve as stellar sonograms.” — Samantha Scibelli
These stellar sonograms that Scibelli describes would have not been possible without the 12-meter radio telescope dish on Kitt Peak National Observatory in Arizona.
Smelly, ancient molecules in pre-stellar formations — cosmic objects that no longer exist — leave signatures that can be measured; data that can begin to tell the story of how organic molecules landed on rocky planets like ours…
I believe that this is a pretty big deal.
For more information on stellar evolution and molecular cloud formation, follow the links below:
Ingredients for life appear in stellar nurseries long before stars are born
uanews.arizona.edu/story/ingre ... -long-stars-are-born Complex organic molecules that could serve as building blocks…
Prevalence of Complex Organic Molecules in Starless and Prestellar Cores within the Taurus…
The detection of complex organic molecules (COMs) toward dense, collapsing prestellar cores has sparked interest in the…
Kitt Peak National Observatory
KITT PEAK IS CURRENTLY CLOSED TO THE PUBLIC NSF's NOIRLab is monitoring the development of COVID-19. To help prevent…
This is the first story of many that will deal with Science. The bottom section of each science related story — this section — will be about related content; fragments of poems, music, scifi, or philosophy.
Verses about space-time and its terrible vastness.
By Carlos Vicéns — via Un libro de estrellas:
As if something from afar is with you and tells you don’t give yourself to haste.
Because you are searching after yourself in the materiality of absence,
which is the material of time.