Monday, April 27, 2009

Delicious, Delicious Space

Astronomers at the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy were scouring a dense region of space junk around a new star in Sagittarius B2 for signs of amino acids, the building blocks of life as we know it. But while they didn't find what they were looking for, they did discover ethyl formate, the molecule that gives raspberries their flavor. The gasses in this area of space absorb radiation from the star they surround and then re-emit it at frequencies that indicate their makeup. So by studying the radiation, astronomers can tell what kinds of molecules are in the gasses. Ethyl formate may not be a sign of life, but it is one of the largest molecules yet detected in space, so it's a good indicator that complex substances can be fairly common even in the middle of nowhere. Lest you hop in your warp bubble and try to take a bite out of this gas cloud, you should also know that they found propyl cyanide as well. So, it's probably a very delicious and refreshing poison. More details here.

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