You and I are both made up of an eclectic collection of organic molecules.
A lot of interesting molecules go into making up all life on Earth, from the amino acids which make up proteins to the nucleobases that encode our very DNA, but where they exactly come from (on a cosmic scale) is still one of science's great mysteries. And as with any good mystery, the only solution will be to solve each of the separate pieces of the puzzle - and the latest piece of this puzzle has just been spotted in a huge gas cloud in the center of our galaxy.
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Finding things like amino acids in space directly is a difficult business. So, instead of finding them directly, a team using West Virginia's Green Bank Telescope, led by Anthony Remijan, discovered two other molecules – cyanomethanimine and ethanamine - both of which are precursor molecules. In other words, these molecules are the early steps in the chain of chemical reactions that go on to make the stuff of life.
Astrochemists are steadily discovering larger and more complex molecules in interstellar space. Recent years have seen the discoveries of glycolaldehyde, which is arguably the simplest type of sugar, and ethyl formate, one of the molecules responsible for the flavor and aroma of rum and raspberries. This latest discovery might not sound quite as appetizing, but it's no less important.