The vast blackness of space might not look like much to the naked eye, but the origins of all life have come from distant stars. As Carl Sagan put it, we are all “star stuff” — we’re made of atoms that could have only been born in intense supernovas. It may appear futile to try to decipher what happened billions of years ago, but astronomers can literally look back in time and see the formation of the universe. Here are just a few cool things astronomers have discovered lately.
- A prebiotic, chiral molecule has been detected for the first time outside of our own solar system. All known life on earth is based on chiral molecules, but no one knows how this situation occurred originally. This first example of a chiral propylene oxide molecule could help explain how life on our planet acquired its preference for handedness or how primordial cosmic seeds might spread through the universe. (Or not.)
- Oxygen has been found 13.1 billion light years away — perhaps the first oxygen atoms to form in the universe. There’s not that much oxygen at a galaxy called SXDF-NB1006-2, but its abundance is in line with simulations of how we think early stars formed.
- Galaxy simulations on supercomputers help explain how stars form in interstellar space. Apparently, feedback from existing stars can regulate how other stars form and influence the growth of galaxies, solving a mystery of how a relatively small fraction of gas in interstellar space is used to form a star.
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