Scientists now believe that the odds of finding alien life in the Milky Way are far higher than anyone had realized. According to a new study headed up by Dr. John Ilee at the University of Leeds, the basic chemical conditions responsible for giving rise to life on Earth are now thought to be a lot more common in the Milky Way than previously believed.
To determine this, the researchers used data from the Atacama Large Millimetre/submillimetre Array (Alma) telescope in Chile to study the discs of material surrounding young stars.
These discs, which will one day form new planets, were found to contain large amounts of the precursor molecules needed to form the more complex molecules required for life to develop.
“Alma has allowed us to look for these molecules in the innermost regions of these disks, on size scales similar to our solar system, for the first time,” said Dr. Ilee.
“Our analysis shows that the molecules are primarily located in these inner regions with abundances between 10 and 100 times higher than models had predicted.”
Intriguingly, these disc regions are also where comets and asteroids form, meaning that these molecules could also be carried large distances and deposited on other planets as well.
“The key result of this work shows that the same ingredients needed for seeding life on our planet are also found around other stars,” said Dr. Catherine Walsh.
“It is possible that the molecules that are needed to kickstart life on planets are readily available in all planet-forming environments.”