A team of researchers used the James Webb space telescope to explore a molecular cloud about 600 light-years from Earth. In addition to simple ice molecules such as water, there are frozen forms of molecules such as carbon dioxide, ammonia and methane up to the complex organic molecule methanol, said the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics (MPE) in Garching.
A light year is the distance that light travels in a year: 9.46 trillion kilometers.
According to the institute, such frozen molecules are of crucial importance for the formation of a habitable planet: They contain several elements that are central components of planetary atmospheres and of substances such as sugars, alcohols and simple amino acids. Such elements are believed to have reached the earth as a result of impacts from icy comets or asteroids.
The "James Webb" telescope was built jointly by the space agencies in Europe (ESA), the USA (Nasa) and Canada (CSA) and was launched into space at the end of 2021 on board an Ariane launch vehicle from the European spaceport in Kourou in French Guiana - after there had previously been cost explosions and repeated postponements. In the summer of 2022, the first images from the telescope were released and provided the deepest and most detailed insights into space to date.