Color-composite image of the Galactic Center and Sagittarius B2. Courtesy of UH

Color-composite image of the Galactic Center and Sagittarius B2. Courtesy of UH

A joint academy research at the University of Hawai‘i and two Mainland universities has found a chilling discovery about the universe’s molecular building blocks of life, according to a UH news release.

Researchers at the UH Mānoa Department of Chemistry’s W.M. Keck Research Laboratory in Astrochemistry, along with colleagues at the universities of Virginia and Southern California, have provided conclusive evidence about complex organic molecules: Formation of these key molecules, relevant to the origin of Earth’s living organisms such as aldehydes and ketones, is driven by a cosmic-ray-triggered nonequilibrium chemistry deep within interstellar ices at temperatures as low as 5 Kelvin (-450°F). The evidence was based on laboratory experiments, computations and modeling.

The newly published research paper, A study of interstellar aldehydes and enols as tracers of a cosmic ray-driven nonequilibrium synthesis of complex organic molecules, was authored by graduate student Matt Abplanalp and Professor Ralf Kaiser of the W.M. Keck Research Laboratory in Astrochemistry at UH Mānoa. This article has already gained recognition in the UK as well as from the journal Nature.

W.M. Keck research laboratory in Astrochemistry at UH Manoa. Courtesy of UH

W.M. Keck research laboratory in Astrochemistry at UH Manoa. Courtesy of UH

“On Earth, cosmic ray exposure is deadly to humans since the radiation can lead to the degradation of deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA), which is a molecule carrying the genetic instructions used in the growth, development, functioning and replication of all known living beings