Methyl chloride discovered in space: The molecule is not a reference to extraterrestrial life

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Monday, October 16, 2017


International research team has, for the first time, detected traces of Freon-40 in a young stellar system and comets with Cologne participation / publication in "Nature Astronomy"


A research team with scientists from among others from Cambridge / Massachusetts, Copenhagen and Cologne has for the first time demonstrated a significant concentration of Freon-40 in a young star system about 400 years ago. The high-resolution images of the ALMA radiotelescopes in the Chilean Atacama desert as well as data from the ROSINA mass spectrometer from the Rosetta space mission served as a data basis.


Freon-40 (CH3Cl), also known as methyl chloride, is the first so-called organohalogen, which has ever been detected in the interstellar space. Organohalogens are produced on the earth by numerous plants, fungi, bacteria and marine organisms, so they have hitherto been regarded as safe indications for biological life. Co-author Jes Jørgensen from the Niels Bohr Institute of the University of Copenhagen: "Thanks to the powerful ALMA telescope, we can now detect molecules that are years away from us. The Freon-40 discovery links our ideas about the pre-biological chemistry of so-called protosterne with the findings from our own solar system. "

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