Carbon Molecules in Space

Context: The CH3+ molecule, which is also knon as methyl cation, has been detected in space for the first time by the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST).  About CH3+:
  • CH3+ is a very simple organic molecule, just one carbon atom and 3 hydrogen atoms. 
  • It reacts inefficiently with hydrogen, the most abundant element in the universe, while reacting easily with other molecules, facilitating the creation of more complex carbon-based molecules.
  • Detection:
    • Scientists found the fingerprints of the CH3+ molecule in light coming from a swirling disk of dust and gas around a young star.
    • It was detected in the star and protoplanetary disc system located about 1,350 light-years away in the Orion Nebula which is 1,350 light years from Earth.
(Protoplanetary discs are discs of dense gas and dust surrounding young stars. The material in these discs eventually coalesces to form planets.)
  • Significance:
    • Its presence in space tells us that basic building blocks for life are out there.
    • It has been theorised to be the cornersntone of interstellar organic chemistry.
    • Its detection proves that ultraviolet radiation plays a critical role in the early chemical stages of the origins of life by producing CH3+.
Additional Information  About James Webb Space Telescope
  • Developed by: NASA with the assistance of European Space Agency (ESA) and the Canadian Space Agency.
  • Location: It is currently at a point in space known as the Sun-Earth L2 Lagrange point, approximately 1.5 million km beyond Earth’s orbit around the Sun.
  • Mission: 
    • To look back around 13.5 billion years to see the first stars and galaxies forming out of the darkness of the early universe.
    • To compare the faintest, earliest galaxies to today’s grand spirals and understand how galaxies assemble over billions of years.
    • To see where stars and planetary systems are being born.
    • To observe the atmospheres of extrasolar planets (beyond our solar system) along with the objects within our own solar system and perhaps find the building blocks of life elsewhere in the universe.
 News Source: Indian Express

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