Extraterrestrial chemistry

Data from the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) has allowed astronomers to detect complex organic molecules - including methyl cyanide - in a protoplanetary disc surrounding a distant, young star MWC 480. The compound and its simpler cousin hydrogen cyanide were observed in the cold outer reaches of the star's newly formed disc, a region equivalent to our Solar System's Kuiper Belt where icy planetesimals and comets reside. "We now have even better evidence that this same chemistry exists elsewhere in the Universe, in regions that could form solar systems not unlike our own." This is particularly intriguing, lead author Karin Öberg says, as the molecules found in MWC 480 are also found in similar concentrations in Solar comets.