Archives

Astrochemistry: June 2016


Astronomers have long known that organic molecules form in diffuse gas clouds floating between stars.

Life on Earth relies on chiral molecules, that is, species not superimposable on their mirror images. This manifests itself in the selection of a single molecular handedness, or homochirality, across the biosphere.

The organic molecule methyl alcohol (methanol) has been found by the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) in the TW Hydrae protoplanetary disc.

Chiral molecules -- compounds that come in otherwise identical mirror image variations, like a pair of human hands -- are crucial to life as we know it.