The new James Webb Space Telescope has penetrated deep into the ice depths of space.
Webb searched some of the darker, colder regions of space to find clues about the chemistry that goes into the formation of planets, and possibly even life, according to a BBC report.
Here, at temperatures as low as about minus 260 degrees Celsius, the Webb telescope is detecting types of ice grains that have not been observed before.
In addition to simple ices, such as water, carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, ammonia and methane, Webb sees many other compounds, including carbonyl sulfide and the more complex organic ice methanol. There are also hints of chemical species with multiple carbon atoms, such as acetone, ethanol, and acetaldehyde.
It’s easier for astronomers to see these targets in space when they’re gases, but Webb achieves a new feat by seeing them in a solid state, like ice.
This discovery will help scientists as they try to understand where the chemistry of life came from, and how it built the evolution it is now showing on our planet.--
“Although we’ve discovered more ice than ever before, the amount of light elements (carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen and sulfur) inside it is still less than we expect,” says Dr Helen Fraser, from the Open University in Britain.-
“This is exciting for astronomers, because it means there’s something we don’t yet fully understand about interstellar chemistry, and that prompts us not only to keep observing, but also to experiment in the lab.”
Near a newly formed star, icy dust grains like those in Chameleon 1 would mostly evaporate, but moreover could remain solid and clump together to form comets.
“These comets will have a large chemical stock inside them, and they probably bombarded the planets (with this stock) certainly early in their history,” says Dr. Martin McCostra from Heriot-Watt University in Britain.
“In the case of Earth, the belief today is that the comet-carried load was part of that organic soup from which life evolved,” he adds.