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Cold Organic Molecules

July 7, 2016

Scientists propose a chilly start to the molecules that form the basis of all life.



Icy origins of organic compounds. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Astronomers have long suspected that complex organic molecules — the building blocks of life— originated in deep space and came to the early earth aboard comets and meteorites. They thought the compounds formed in warm spots in distant nebulae, but now,  in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, University of Hawaii chemist Ralph Kaiser and his colleagues describe a process that creates these molecules at frigid temperatures: just 10 degrees above absolute zero.

RALF KAISER (University of Hawaii at Manoa):

It shows that complex organic molecules can be formed at ultra low temperature by ionizing radiation, and it’s absolutely not necessary to include heating processes, as thought previously.


The finding raises the possibility that these building blocks of life could form in other icy corners of the Universe. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.

Story by Bob Hirshon