Building blocks of life are found 700 light years from Earth

By Daily Mail Reporter
Last updated at 6:16 PM on 19th September 2008

Organic molecules that may have provided the foundations of life have been detected hundreds of light years from Earth.

The molecules of naphthalene were found in a star-forming region of clouds of gas and dust in the constellation Perseus, 700 light years away.

They are some of the most complex yet discovered in the regions of deep space between the stars.

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Organic building blocks: Scientists have identified naphthalene, one of the most complex molecules yet discovered in space. It was located in the Perseus constellation - star [C93]52 - by means of the diffuse interstellar bandwidth 6707.4A


The Perseus constellation where the naphthalene was discovered

Naphthalene has also been found in meteorites that have fallen to Earth.

When subjected to ultraviolet radiation combined with water and ammonium - all common in interstellar space - naphthalene can produce a wide variety of amino acids, the building blocks of proteins.

Researcher Dr Iglesias Groth, from the Instituto Astrofisica de Canarias in Spain, said: 'We aim to investigate whether other, more complex, hydrocarbons exist in the same region, including amino acids.'

Perseus is a northern constellation, named after the Greek hero Perseus who slew the monster Medusa in popular legend.

The discovery was reported in the Astrophysical Journal Letters.

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