You’ll have to overlook our Cockney-accented title, dear reader. We just couldn’t control ourselves. This is the kind of article we like to see from time to time. We found it at the website of ESO — the European Southern Observatory: Building blocks of life found around young star.
No, it doesn’t tell us exactly how life originated on Earth (or elsewhere), and it doesn’t end any debates with creationists (nothing ever will), but this is the sort of thing that gives creationists nightmares — and that’s good.
News like this reminds us that we’re continuously building new instruments and acquiring new information. That means we’re not confined to the limited knowledge that was available in the days of the Babylonian empire, when the creationist worldview was conceived.
Okay, you know all that, so let’s get on with the news. Here are some excerpts, with bold font added by us:
A team of astronomers using the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) has spotted sugar molecules in the gas surrounding a young Sun-like star. This is the first time sugar been found in space around such a star, and the discovery shows that the building blocks of life are in the right place, at the right time, to be included in planets forming around the star.
Whoa! We’ve known that organic molecules are found in space, but we didn’t know about sugar. Let’s read on:
The astronomers found molecules of glycolaldehyde — a simple form of sugar — in the gas surrounding a young binary star, with similar mass to the Sun, called IRAS 16293-2422. Glycolaldehyde has been seen in interstellar space before, but this is the first time it has been found so near to a Sun-like star, at distances comparable to the distance of Uranus from the Sun in the Solar System. This discovery shows that some of the chemical compounds needed for life existed in this system at the time of planet formation.
Here’s some info on Glycolaldehyde. Wikipedia already has a footnote about this news.
We know what you’re thinking. You’re wondering why this is a big deal. [Cockney accent again: “Sugar ‘n spice? That’s nice … gov’nor.”] Perhaps this will impress you:
“What it is really exciting about our findings is that the ALMA observations reveal that the sugar molecules are falling in towards one of the stars of the system,” says team member Cécile Favre (Aarhus University, Denmark). “The sugar molecules are not only in the right place to find their way onto a planet, but they are also going in the right direction.”
And here’s one more excerpt:
“A big question is: how complex can these molecules become before they are incorporated into new planets? This could tell us something about how life might arise elsewhere, and ALMA observations are going to be vital to unravel this mystery,” concludes Jes Jørgensen [(Niels Bohr Institute, Denmark), the lead author of the paper].
There’s more at the ESO article, and their paper is going to appear in the journal Astrophysical Journal Letters. Be assured, dear reader, that the creationists don’t like this sort of thing. We can hear them sputtering in their dank dungeons: “This is an outrage! Why … if organic molecules, including sugar, are routinely to be found out there, then — gasp! — maybe life on Earth isn’t a miracle after all!”
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