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article imageOp-Ed: 'Complex organic matter' throughout the universe

By Paul Wallis     Oct 27, 2011 in Science
Hong Kong - This is a major issue in the making. Forget all previous theories, stars have now been shown to be able to create organic materials. Complex organic materials are literally everywhere.
For theologians, apparently if you let there be light, that light has a few ideas of its own. Both science and religion can expect to be scratching their heads for a while with this one.
Organic signatures from materials, naturally, are different from those given by “normal” spacial materials- to a point. Apparently the materials detected are very similar to organic materials detected in meteorites. The theory is that our own “domestic” meteorites, which have been dated back to the early days of the Solar System, contained these materials, which raises a lot of questions about life getting started on early Earth, and perhaps elsewhere in the Solar System.
As Science Daily reports, the process of discovering this information started innocently enough:
Prof. Sun Kwok and Dr. Yong Zhang of The University of Hong Kong show that an organic substance commonly found throughout the Universe contains a mixture of aromatic (ring-like) and aliphatic (chain-like) components. The compounds are so complex that their chemical structures resemble those of coal and petroleum. Since coal and oil are remnants of ancient life, this type of organic matter was thought to arise only from living organisms.
The new research added a dramatic new dimension to this basic idea. It’s now believed from studies of nova dust that stars can produce these materials in a matter of weeks.
This is one of those situations where joining the dots produces some interesting results. The possibility of something like a star producing a wide array of molecules isn’t itself all that surprising. Novae produce heavy elements. If you own any gold, for example, you’ll be interested to hear that it originally formed in a nova, billions of years ago. The hydrogen and helium in stars is just the core matter. The other elements appear to be derived from stellar processes.
Isaac Asimov theorized years ago that changing one element to another simply required plasma temperature variations, and lo and behold, not only do we have a Periodic Table based on stellar behaviour, we apparently also have the fundamental chemistry of life.
So it’s not too surprising that stars producing organic basic materials having planets would wind up with life on them. That, of course, hardly begins to describe the possibilities. Stars vary greatly, and so, therefore, would their ability to produce organic materials.
This finding could quite literally mean that there is an almost infinite range of possible life, throughout the universe. I think we’re going to have to go and see for ourselves.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
More about hong kong university stellar organic materials, meteorite organic materials, Kwok Zhang university of hong kong, isaac asimov formation of elements theory, Complex Organic Matter
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