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James Webb finds the ingredients for a Dirty Martini in space

James Webb finds the ingredients for a Dirty Martini in space

Using data from NASA's James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), astronomers have made a truly surprising (and delicious) discovery: They've found ingredients for making cocktails in space!

Let's understand this story:

  • A team of scientists has discovered a variety of materials around two protostars, IRAS 2A and IRAS 23385;
  • Among them are ethanol found in alcoholic beverages, acetic acid, a component of vinegar, and even formic acid.
  • Interestingly, almost all the ingredients needed to prepare the famous drink known as the Dirty Martini – except olives.
Image acquired by NASA's James Webb Space Telescope of a region near the protostar known as IRAS 23385. Image credit: NASA, ESA, CSA, W. Rocha (Leiden University)

This amazing discovery was made possible by JWST's mid-infrared instrument (MIRI), which is capable of analyzing icy regions around protostars. This result challenges previous expectations, suggesting that these complex molecules may form in the early stages of stellar evolution.

“This discovery contributes to one of the longest-running questions in astrochemistry,” team leader Will Roscha, an astrophysicist at Leiden University in the Netherlands, said in a statement. statement. “What is the origin of complex organic molecules (COMs) in space? Are they made in the gas phase or in ice? The discovery of COMs in ice suggests that solid-phase chemical reactions on the surfaces of cold dust grains can build complex types of molecules.”

JWST's Mid-Infrared Instrument (MIRI) has identified a variety of complex organic molecules found in interstellar ice around two protostars. These molecules, which are essential ingredients for making habitable worlds, include ethanol, formic acid, methane, and possibly acetic acid, in the solid phase. Image source: NASA, ESA, CSA, L. Hustak (STScI). Science: W. Rocha (Leiden University).

Read more:

The James Webb Telescope offers a new view into the solar system's past

Although the protostars studied are not currently generating planets, they provide valuable information about the early stages of star formation. IRAS 2A, in particular, resembles the Sun in its early days, providing a glimpse into what our solar system might have been like in the distant past.

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These molecules could eventually become part of comets, asteroids and even new planetary systems as the protostar system evolves, stressed Eoin van Dischhoek, also from Leiden University, and co-author of the research.

Dedicated to Harold Lennartz, a member of the team who died in 2023, the article describing the research will be published in the journal Astronomy and astrophysics. This exciting discovery is sure to interest astronomy enthusiasts (and cocktail lovers), opening the door to a new understanding of the possibilities of the universe – or perhaps suggesting the existence of a cosmic recipe for an intergalactic drink.