The beauty of life diversity is that, to the core, we're all composed of the same matter.
Carbon atoms connect to a number of elements that surround the universe, and the creation of substances in space has been the subject of research for many years.
Recently, astronomers have gained more information on the creation of molecules, which is a prerequisite of any chemicals that would allow life forms to survive.
The Herschel Space Observatory of the European Space Agency has found ultraviolet light from stars to be a key element in the formation of elementary molecules. This discovery dismisses the previous theory that "shock" events that cause turbulence are responsible for molecular creation.
The hypothesis stated that events such as exploding supernovae or young stars spitting out material could create large shocks, which create vibrations in the materials they encounter. These vibrations could separate electrons from atoms, turning these into ions, which could then form bonds with other ions and combine to form molecules.
However, the study suggests no correlation between molecule formation and the shock events. The scientists analyzed the ingredients composing carbon chemistry in the Orion Nebula, which is the closest star-forming area to Earth creating massive stars.
The data from the telescope suggest that the carbon-hydrogen positive ion (CH+) molecules were created by ultraviolet emissions coming from very young stars in the nebula. Compared to our sun, they're dramatically more massive, hotter and, therefore, they emit more ultraviolet light.
"On Earth, the sun is the driving source of almost all the life on Earth. Now, we have learned that starlight drives the formation of chemicals that are precursors to chemicals that we need to make life," explained Patrick Morris, researcher at the Infrared Processing and Analysis Center at Caltech.
The research for molecules began in the 1940s, when CH and CH+ were some of the first molecules ever analyzed in space. During this examination, scientists discovered that CH+ emits light rather than absorbs it, which makes it warmer than the background gas.
Because of the amount of energy required for the CH+ molecule to form and its reactive nature, it gets destroyed whenever interacting with the background hydrogen in the molecular cloud. This entire chain of events makes both its high abundance and temperature harder to understand.
The question of the abundance of CH+ in molecular clouds has been investigated before. However, Herschel managed to observe an area of electromagnetic spectrum, unlike any other telescope before it. This observational breakthrough allowed it to analyze the entire Orion Nebula, rather than specific stars that are part of it.