The team of Prof. Sun Kwok and Dr. Yong Zhang used observations taken by the Infrared Space Observatory and the Spitzer Space Telescope of stardust formed in exploding stars called novae to show that the astronomical spectra contain a mixture of aromatic (ring-like) and aliphatic (chain-like) components that cannot be explained by PAH molecules.
Supporting an earlier idea by Kwok that old stars are molecular factories capable of manufacturing organic compounds, they say that not only are stars producing this complex matter on extremely short time scales of weeks, but they are also ejecting it into the general interstellar space in between stars.
"Our work has shown that stars have no problem making complex organic compounds under near-vacuum conditions," says Kwok. "Theoretically, this is impossible, but observationally we can see it happening."
life on Earth were sown by organic compounds created naturally by stars. If that turns out to be the case, it has obvious implications for the chances of life outside our solar system as the complex organic compounds exist throughout the Universe.
Kwok and Zhang's Paper, Mixed aromatic-aliphatic organic nanoparticles as carriers of unidentified infrared emission features is published this month in the journal Nature.