The site of the discovery was a young star known as MWC 480, which is located in a region thought to be similar to the Kuiper Belt around our sun. The Kuiper Belt is a region beyond the orbit of Neptune which is home to icy objects like comets, writes Elizabeth Howell for The Christian Science Monitor.
Methyl cyanide and hydrogen cyanide detected
“In the Solar System, complex organic molecules are common on many planets, moons, comets and asteroids. Comets are most relevant point of comparison for this study. They preserve a record of what the young Solar System looked like chemically and should have a similar chemical composition to the MWC 480 disk which is chemically comparable with our Solar System,” stated Karin Öberg, study lead author.
The star MWC 480 is too young for scientists to have detected the presence of planets or protoplanets. However they did discover a carbon-based organic molecule called methyl cyanide, and a simplified version of the same molecule called hydrogen cyanide, using the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA).
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Astronomers know that the interstellar cloud of dust and gas from which the star is formed is an important breeding ground for organic molecules. Cyanides are of great interest to scientists because they contain bonds of carbon and nitrogen which are the basis of amino acids, protein and life.