Apr 22, 2009 | 22
Two of the most complex molecules ever found outside the solar system have been turned up by astronomers peering into Sagittarius B2 (Sgr B2), a massive, vigorous star-forming region near the heart of the Milky Way.
Arnaud Belloche, an astronomer at the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, and his colleagues detected the spectral signature of ethyl formate (far left in image) and n-propyl cyanide (at right in image) in electromagnetic radiation from Sgr B2. Both are relatively large organic (carbon-based) molecules—ethyl formate (C2H5OCHO) has 11 atoms and n-propyl cyanide (n-C3H7CN) has 12. Only cyanodecapentayne (HC11N), discovered in 1997, boasts more atoms among known interstellar molecules with 13.
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