Are Stars the Origin of Organic Life?

By Andrew Tarantola on at

Our Sun's energy is the source of all life on the planet, sure. But what if it was also the source of the first organic compounds that gave rise to life itself? A team of Hong Kong researchers believe they've proved just that.

The team from the University of Hong Kong have published a report that apparently explains the phenomena of Unidentified Infrared Emission features. These features cause observable infrared emissions in stars and were originally thought to have been caused by simple polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (PAH) molecules comprised of carbon and hydrogen. However, this report pins the source of the UIE features as complex organic compounds—structurally akin to coal—that are made naturally by stars and ejected into space. Trace amounts of these compounds can be found in interstellar dust clouds.

This isn't the discovery of extraterrestrial life, mind you, as these compounds are organic but can't be classified as either alive or dead. However, they are the first evidence that stars can naturally generate compounds on this scale of complexity—and quickly, producing them in a matter of weeks.

"Our work has shown that stars have no problem making complex organic compounds under near-vacuum conditions," said Prof. Sun Kwok, of the research team. "Theoretically, this is impossible, but observationally we can see it happening." [Gizmag - Daily Galaxy Top image courtesy of NASA]