Astrochemistry: April 2016

The young star beta Pictoris is well known for its dusty debris disk, produced through the grinding down by collisions of planetesimals, kilometre-sized bodies in orbit around the star.

In order to identify inhabited worlds beyond the Solar System, scientists are exploring the possibility of detecting gases that could serve as biosignatures in the atmospheres of extrasolar planets.

Complex Organic Molecules (COMs) have been detected in the interstellar medium (ISM). However, it is not clear whether their synthesis occurs on the icy surfaces of interstellar grains or via a series of gas-phase reactions.

Researchers have for the first time shown that ribose, a sugar that is one of the building blocks of genetic material in living organisms, may have formed in cometary ices.