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About CH3+ Molecule

Context:

Recently, the CH3+ molecule has been detected in space for the first time by the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST).

Relevance:

GS III: Science and Technology

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Details
  2. About CH3+ molecule
  3. What is NASA’s James Webb Telescope?
Details:
  • Scientists have detected the presence of the CH3+ molecule in light emitted by a swirling disk of dust and gas around a young star.
  • The star and its disk are located in the Orion Nebula, approximately 1,350 light years away from Earth.

About CH3+ molecule:

  • CH3+ is also known as methyl cation.
  • It is a simple organic molecule consisting of one carbon atom and three hydrogen atoms.
  • The molecule is highly reactive and participates in chemical reactions, leading to the formation of more complex organic compounds.
  • Its identification in space indicates the existence of fundamental building blocks for life.
  • CH3+ serves as a catalyst for various intriguing and complex reactions.
Significance of the discovery:
  • The presence of the CH3+ molecule in a region where planets capable of supporting life are forming holds great significance.
  • This discovery can contribute to unraveling the mysteries surrounding the origins of life in the universe.
  • It aids scientists in gaining a better understanding of the processes and locations where life could potentially arise.
  • The detection of CH3+ expands our knowledge of organic chemistry in space and provides insights into the chemical mechanisms involved in the formation of planets.
  • This finding has implications for the field of astrobiology and enhances our understanding of the potential for life beyond Earth.

What is NASA’s James Webb Telescope?

  • The telescope has been in the works for years. NASA led its development with the European Space Agency (ESA) and the Canadian Space Agency.
  • It was launched aboard a rocket on December 25, 2021, and is currently at a point in space known as the Sun-Earth L2 Lagrange point, approximately 1.5 million km beyond Earth’s orbit around the Sun.
    • Lagrange Point 2 is one of the five points in the orbital plane of the Earth-Sun system.
  • Named after Italian-French mathematician Josephy-Louis Lagrange, the points are in any revolving two-body system like Earth and Sun, marking where the gravitational forces of the two large bodies cancel each other out.
  • Objects placed at these positions are relatively stable and require minimal external energy or fuel to keep themselves there, and so many instruments are positioned here.
  • L2 is a position directly behind Earth in the line joining the Sun and the Earth. It would be shielded from the Sun by the Earth as it goes around the Sun, in sync with the Earth.
What is the mission of the James Webb Space Telescope?

NASA says the James Webb Space Telescope will be “a giant leap forward in our quest to understand the Universe and our origins”, as it will examine every phase of cosmic history: from the Big Bang to the formation of galaxies, stars, and planets to the evolution of our own Solar System.

The science goals for the Webb can be grouped into four themes.

  • To look back around 13.5 billion years to see the first stars and galaxies forming out of the darkness of the early universe.
  • To compare the faintest, earliest galaxies to today’s grand spirals and understand how galaxies assemble over billions of years.
  • To see where stars and planetary systems are being born.
  • To observe the atmospheres of extrasolar planets (beyond our solar system), and perhaps find the building blocks of life elsewhere in the universe. The telescope will also study objects within our own Solar System.

-Source: Indian Express


May 2024
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