No one has found evidence of life anywhere else in the universe. But the chemistry of life is all around, in everything from the planets and moons of our own solar system to distant galaxies.
One location that contains a lot of that chemistry is IC 348 — a star cluster about a thousand light-years away, in Perseus. It’s part of a much larger complex known as the Perseus molecular cloud. The cloud contains several clusters of especially young stars.
The 400 known stars of IC 348, for example, are just two million years old. And most of them are encircled by the raw materials for making planets.
This year, astronomers in Spain reported the discovery of some of the basic building blocks of life in the gas and dust between the stars. Some of this material may be flowing into the young star systems, where it could be incorporated into new planets.
The compounds included water, carbon dioxide, and ammonia, along with acetylene, benzene, and other carbon-based molecules. These and others are the building blocks of amino acids, which are key building blocks of life. Later, the astronomers found one amino acid. So IC 348 is bursting with some of the ingredients for life.
Perseus is in the northeast this evening. IC 348 is about half way between the bright star Capella, to its lower left, and the brilliant planet Jupiter, to the upper right. We’ll talk about Jupiter tomorrow.
Script by Damond Benningfield