Molecule dashes hopes for interstellar signs of life

12 October 2017
Presented by Izzie Clarke.

Astronomers are trying to understand where our solar system came from, how life got started here, and where else in the galaxy life may be lurking. Chemistry is very important in these processes both in terms of providing chemical building blocks from which things can form, but also providing chemical signatures that highlight that something - like life - is happening. We had thought that one compound, called methyl chloride, was a surefire sign of life, but now astronomers in America and Denmark have detected the same chemical around a star without any planets, as well as on a comet in our own solar system. Izzie Clarke heard from Jes Jorgensen from the Niels Bohr Institute at the University of Copenhagen how they collect this information from space…

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