• Tue. Feb 27th, 2024

The James Webb telescope has discovered the oldest complex organic molecules in space

The James Webb telescope has discovered the oldest complex organic molecules in space

Scientists identify organic molecules (highlighted in orange) in a distant galaxy known as SPT0418-47 with the James Webb Space Telescope. /via NASA space.com

Scientists identify organic molecules (highlighted in orange) in a distant galaxy known as SPT0418-47 with the James Webb Space Telescope. /via NASA space.com

The James Webb Space Telescope has discovered the earliest complex organic molecules in the universe, according to a new study. Nature On June 5.

These materials, similar to those found in Earth’s smoke and soil, were found in a primordial galaxy that formed when the universe was about 10 percent of its present age.

These carbon-based molecules, called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, are commonly found in oil, coal, and smog.

Justin Spilker, an astrophysicist at Texas A&M University, emphasized in an interview with Space.com that these molecules are not simple compounds like water or carbon dioxide, but rather large and complex structures consisting of dozens or hundreds of atoms.

Although complex organic molecules are frequently found in space, especially associated with small dust particles, their detection in ancient galaxies has proven challenging due to limitations in telescope sensitivity and the range of light wavelengths.

However, with the arrival of NASA’s powerful James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), Spilker and his team successfully identified these molecules in a distant galaxy known as SPT0418-47, located 12 billion light-years from Earth.

Light captured from SPT0418-47 began its journey 1.5 billion years before the Big Bang, given the great distance involved. The discovery set a new record, pushing back previous discoveries by nearly a billion years.

Spilker said the record holder for oldest complex biomolecules was discovered using more than 24 hours of observations with NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope. In contrast, JWST only needs one hour of observation to achieve the same feat.

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