James Webb Locates Essential Building Blocks of Life in a Molecular Cloud Far From Earth

James Webb Locates Essential Building Blocks of Life in a Molecular Cloud Far From Earth

The Chamaeleon I molecular cloud is a nearby star-forming region located in the southern constellation of Chamaeleon. It is one of the closest sites of ongoing low-mass star formation and contains a number of young stellar objects, including pre-main-sequence stars, protostars, and brown dwarfs.

The cloud in question is located at a distance of about 160-200 parsecs from the Earth, and has an estimated mass of about 1000 solar masses. Chamaeleon I is also known for its strong infrared emission and high concentration of dust and gas. The cloud is actively forming new stars, with several small clusters of young stars located within it, as well as a number of more isolated stars. The Chamaeleon I cloud is an important site for the study of the formation and early evolution of low-mass stars and brown dwarfs.

James Webb finds CHONS in Chamaeleon I

The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) has detected the existence of chemicals that can be considered some of the building blocks of life. To be more precise, the next-gen telescope found frozen carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen, and sulfur in the Chamaeleon I molecular cloud, as ScienceAlert reveals. These elements are vital for the formation of molecules such as amino acids, and they are also known as CHONS. The hunch now coming from the scientists is that CHONS and other molecules existed in the molecular cloud that led to the emergence of our Sun, some of which later arrived to our planet as carried by icy comet and asteroid impacts.

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JWST used absorption signatures to determine the chemical composition of the dust in Chamaeleon I and found silicate dust grains, CHONS, as well as other molecules and ice.

Maria Drozdovskaya, from the University of Bern, stated:

These elements are important components of prebiotic molecules such as simple amino acids – and thus ingredients of life, so to speak.

The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) is equipped with infrared capabilities that make it able to see what’s going on beyond dense layers of dust in space.

The new research appears in Nature Astronomy.


Even since he was a child, Cristian was staring curiously at the stars, wondering about the Universe and our place in it. Today he's seeing his dream come true by writing about the latest news in astronomy. Cristian is also glad to be covering health and other science topics, having significant experience in writing about such fields.

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