Washington: An international team of astronomers investigated the Orion Nebula and found a process that may have played a role in the development of life on Earth.
Fukue and Tamura of the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan conducted the research on the properties of light in a massive star-forming region (BN/KL nebula) of the Orion Nebula.
The origin of “biomolecular homochirality” characterizes most life forms on Earth.
Chirality refers to the handedness of an image or phenomenon, which is not identical to the mirror image of its counterpart, much as the right and left hands are similar in structure but are opposites and thus not the same.
Therefore, biomolecular homochirality indicates an organic group of molecules that are characterized by the same handedness.
The process that produced the handedness in the meteorites may provide clues to how homochirality developed in life forms on Earth.
Terrestrial living material displays homochirality and consists almost exclusively of one enantiomer, L-amino acid, one of a pair of amino acids.
Images from Orion Nebula reveal a circularly polarized region that is spatially extended around the BN/KL nebula, a massive star-forming region.
The circular polarization here is high and significant, extending over a region about 400 times the size of the Solar System, an area observed that is much larger than that of previous studies.
Unlike the BN/KL nebula, most of the low-mass young stars do not demonstrate a detectable extended structure in either linear or circular polarization.
The team reasoned that if our Solar System formed in a massive star-forming region like Orion’s, then circularly polarized radiation could have induced enantiomeric excesses in the parent bodies of meteorites and subsequently delivered to Earth.
First Published: Saturday, July 31, 2010, 13:27