Researchers say they’ve found the first evidence of mirror-image molecules in interstellar space – a discovery that relates to the chemistry that gave rise to life here on Earth.
The molecules of propylene oxide were detected in a huge cloud known as Sagittarius B2 North, about 28,000 light-years from Earth, during a scan that used the Green Bank Telescope in West Virginia.
Mirror-image molecules are notable because they come in left-handed or right-handed molecular orientations, like the molecules that serve as the building blocks for life on Earth. That “handedness” is known as chirality.
“This is the first molecule detected in interstellar space that has the property of chirality, making it a pioneering leap forward in our understanding of how prebiotic molecules are made in the universe and the effects they may have on the origins of life,” Brett McGuire, a chemist with the National Radio Astronomy Observatory, said in a news release.