The Webb telescope was the first to discover complex organic matter in space. Organic molecules important for life discovered for the first time near a protostar The Webb Space Telescope (JWST) has for the first time discovered complex organic molecules (COMs), such as formaldehyde and acetic acid, that act as important building blocks for life around protostars. The research results are published in the journal Astronomy and Astrophysics, and the text of the paper is available in the arXiv preprint repository. Interstellar COMs (iCOMs) typically include simple alcohols, ethers, esters, and nitriles. To belong to this group, a molecule must have at least six atoms, one of which is carbon. They are often found in star-forming regions, in clumps called hot cores or hot corinos, depending on their size. Since protostars and protoplanetary disks are formed from these clumps, iCOM is expected to collide with the rocky exoplanets that form.

In the new study, a team of astronomers used JWST to examine a pair of young high- and low-mass protostars (IRAS 2A and IRAS 23385) located in the Perseus Molecular Cloud, approximately 960 light-years away. Ta. Organic compounds identified included acetaldehyde (CH3CHO), ethanol (CH3CH2OH), methyl formate (CH3OCHO), and possibly acetic acid (CH3COOH). Astronomers had previously discovered simpler organic substances, such as methanol (CH3OH), in the gas phase around protostars.

The iCOMs discovered form on ice grains. The state of the clouds surrounding the protostar IRAS 2A correlates well with the amount of ice contained in comet Churyumov-Gerasimenko. This could indicate that the molecules needed for life to emerge were brought to Earth by icy objects, which then received them from the clouds surrounding the protostar.