Issue Date: March 17, 2008
Organics Observed Around Sunlike Star
Comets and meteorites carry traces of water and organic molecules originating from the earliest days of our solar system. As such, they provide most of the evidence scientists use to speculate on the chemistry involved in the solar system's formation. But now, NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope has spied an abundance of water and simple organics in the gas surrounding AA Tauri, a very young, sunlike star (Science 2008, 319, 1504). The observation is giving scientists a better idea of what the early chemistry of our solar system might have looked like. Astronomers John S. Carr at the Naval Research Laboratory, Washington, D.C., and Joan R. Najita at the National Optical Astronomy Observatory, Tucson, Ariz., examined mid-infrared emissions from around AA Tauri. The collections of water vapor, carbon dioxide, acetylene, and OH radicals they discerned in those signals strengthen the case for a number of models suggesting that the long-ago inner disk of dust and gas in our solar system was a mixing bowl of organic chemistry. The outcome of those reactions or events could have been such acts as the deposition of water in areas where planets like Earth might form.
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