In this political season of lies, lies and more lies, of idiots and incompetents, of selfishness and greed, and of the basest human instincts, it’s nice to be occasionally reminded that our species can be pretty amazingly smart and clever sometimes. I mean, we have figured out how to find specific molecules floating around in space 700 lightyears away.
A team of scientists led by researchers from the Instituto Astrofísica de Canarias (IAC) has succeeded in identifying naphthalene, one of the most complex molecules yet discovered in the interstellar medium. The detection of this molecule suggests that a large number of the key components in prebiotic terrestrial chemistry could have been present in the interstellar matter from which the Solar System was formed.[From Interstellar Space Molecules That Help Form Basic Life Structures Identified]
IAC researchers Susana Iglesias Groth, Arturo Manchado and Aníbal García, in collaboration with Jonay González (Paris Observatory) and David Lambert (University of Texas) have just published these results in Astrophysical Journal Letters.
The naphthalene was discovered in a star formation region in the constellation Perseus, in the direction of the star Cernis 52. “We have detected the presence of the naphthalene cation in a cloud of interstellar matter located 700 lightyears from the Earth”, says IAC researcher Susana Iglesias Groth. The spectral bands found in this constellation coincide with laboratory measurements of the naphthalene cation.
That’s damn cool if you ask me.
I’m sure that later today I’ll read something that makes me feel rather ill-disposed toward our species, but for now, I think about the fact that we are exploring the universe and taking pictures like this:
and I can’t help but smile and be amazed that I am human and alive and part of an incredible universe that is being discovered by a darn clever and remarkable species.