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Near a giant black hole: the discovery of a purifier at the center of the Milky Way

Near a giant black hole: the discovery of a purifier at the center of the Milky Way

Near a giant black hole
Disinfectant discovered in the center of the Milky Way

On Earth, skin or surfaces are disinfected with it – now a research team has discovered isopropanol near the center of the Milky Way. Other organic molecules have already been discovered there. They can play a role in the origin of life.

Astronomers have reported an amazing discovery in space. They discovered disinfectants near the center of our Milky Way galaxy. What’s going on, has the coronavirus really gotten that far? This is nonsense, of course, but the discovery is still amazing. Because the sanitizer is an alcohol called isopropanol. It is the largest alcohol molecule discovered in space so far, The Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy (MPIfR) in Bonn.

Many people already have isopropanol on their hands: Alcohol is used to disinfect skin or surfaces. The substance was discovered when examining a molecular cloud in the Sagittarius B2 region. The region is the birthplace of new stars and is close to it Supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way.

Many organic molecules have been discovered there in the past, which is why the area is a real treasure trove for astronomers. An international research group led by Arno Belusch of MPIfR has now been able to track down isopropanol used as a disinfectant on Earth — as well as related propanol. It is the largest alcohol molecule discovered in interstellar space to date.

According to Belloche, the chemical structure of Sagittarius B2 has been under investigation for 15 years. “These observations were successful and, in particular, led to the first interstellar discovery of a number of organic molecules.” Since 2014, isopropyl cyanide has been found, which is used on Earth to produce pesticides, among other things, N-methylformamide and urea.

Search for “fingerprints”

However, detecting organic molecules in the spectra of star-forming regions is not easy. Researchers are using the ALMA Radio Telescope in Chile for this. “The larger the molecule, the more spectral lines it emits at different frequencies,” says Holger Muller of the University of Cologne. In a source like Sagittarius B2, there are many molecules whose spectra overlap, making it difficult to detect and identify their “fingerprints” individually.

why all that? Researchers want to understand how organic molecules form in the interstellar medium, especially in regions where new stars are being born. They also want to know how complex these molecules are. One motivation is to make connections to the chemical composition of objects in the Solar System such as comets, such as the one made by the Rosetta mission to Comet Churyumov-Gerasimenko a few years ago. Comets could have supplied the Earth with organic molecules billions of years ago – and thus may have contributed to the emergence of life.

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