At a distance of approximately 6,300 trillion km.. James Webb finds the coldest and most distant pieces of ice in the universe | Sciences

At a distance of approximately 6,300 trillion km.. James Webb finds the coldest and most distant pieces of ice in the universe |  Sciences

A research team, led by scientists from the Dutch University of Leiden, was able to detect complex ice structures in a stellar cloud about 6,300 trillion km from Earth, and thus the most distant compounds discovered of this type.

James Webb Accuracy

To reach these results, which were published in the journal Nature Astronomy, scientists used data from the James Webb Space Telescope, after it was directed to study a part of a molecular cloud called the Chamaeleon complex. This star cloud contains 3 nebulae and is two million years old.

According to the study, this cloud contained pieces of ice with a temperature of minus 258 degrees Celsius, through which the light of a star located in its background called “NIR 38” passes through, which transferred the components of this ice to the “NIRCam” camera. Onboard the James Webb Telescope, with support from the MIRI and NIRSpec cameras.

And when the light of this star passes through the pieces of ice in the chameleon cloud, the components of the ice leave what looks like a chemical fingerprint on the light beam, and scientists can read it with a great degree of accuracy.

In the case of James Webb – specifically – more accuracy in these measurements results from making them in the infrared range, as the molecules in the structure of this space ice have the largest number of spectral fingerprints within this electromagnetic range.

The overlap between the work of James Webb’s three cameras helped provide the best possible detail of this cloud (NASA)

A garden of chemical compounds

According to the new study, the team was able to monitor frozen images of a wide range of molecules besides carbon dioxide in this cloud, including but not limited to carbonyl sulfide, ammonia, methane, and methanol.

In addition, the team found evidence of more complex molecules than methanol, proving for the first time that complex chemical compounds can form in the icy depths of molecular clouds before stars are born, contrary to what is common among scientists in this range, which is that the birth of stars is What stimulates the formation of these compounds.

According to an official press release issued by the US Space and Aviation Agency (NASA) on January 23, these observations open a new window on how the simple and complex organic compounds needed to make the building blocks of life originated.

James Webb is a promising tool for studying the dawn of the early universe (NASA)
The research is part of a massive project called Ice Age, one of 13 James Webb programs (NASA).

Why is ice important?

In general, scientists consider ice a vital element in the formation of solar groups that are similar to ours, because ice is the main source of many basic elements, namely carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen, and sulfur.

The presence of these elements in the cloud prior to the formation of planets represents a fertile ground for building complex organic compounds in the future, which scientists believe have a role in the formation of different forms of life.

This is why James Webb is believed to be so important in advancing scientists’ understanding of the secrets of still ice in star clouds. In fact, this research is part of a huge project called Ice Age, one of James Webb’s 13 programs, to study images of ice in space.


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