In A New Study, Astronomers Suggest The Star Material Glycolonitrile May Be A Crucial Building Block Of Life

Astronomers have detected the pre-biotic molecule glycolonitrile in the protostar IRAS16293-2422 B, which may shed more light on the creation of life as we know it.

Rho ophiuchi interstellar molecular cloud complex in deep space.
Can Inellioglu / Shutterstock

Astronomers have detected the pre-biotic molecule glycolonitrile in the protostar IRAS16293-2422 B, which may shed more light on the creation of life as we know it.

Astronomers have just discovered an organic molecule which is part of the building block from which stars spring to life, and this molecule, glycolonitrile (HOCH2CN), may help to finally explain how life first began on Earth, according to a new study by astronomers from Queen Mary University.

As Phys.org reported, glycolonitrile, which is a pre-biotic molecule, was around long before life as we know it first began, and has been discovered hiding in the protostar IRAS16293-2422 B, which is 450 light-years away from Earth, and found within rho Ophiuchi. This particular area is full of very young stars that have just begun their lives, and it is enveloped by gas and dust, which astronomers note is remarkably similar to how things were during the early formation of the solar system.

As it stands, astronomers believe that learning more about solar-type protostars, and discovering new pre-biotic molecules like glycolonitrile, will shed more light on how the solar system first emerged as it demonstrates that “planets created around the star could begin their existence with a supply of the chemical ingredients needed to make some form of life.”

IRAS16293-2422 B, which can be found in the constellation of Ophiuchus, just happens to be a protostar which has been studied thoroughly over the years, but the detection of glycolonitrile is certainly cause for excitement as astronomers know that this molecule often jump starts the creation of adenine, which is importantly one of the many nucleobases which creates both DNA and RNA.

As lead author Shaoshan Zeng explained, the discovery of the new molecule has shown astronomers that this is something which is found in young planets and stars, which could lead to a much great understanding of how life sprang up on Earth.

“We have shown that this important pre-biotic molecule can be formed in the material from which stars and planets emerge, taking us a step closer to identifying the processes that may have led to the origin of life on Earth.”

The new research was conducted in a host of different locations, including the INAF-Osservatorio Astrofisico di Arcetri in Italy, Centro de Astrobiología in Spain, the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in the United States, and the European Southern Observatory.

The new study describing the detection of the pre-biotic molecule glycolonitrile, which astronomers suggest may eventually demonstrate how star materials could be key building blocks of life, has been published in Monthly Notice of the Royal Astronomical Society.