I imagine the answer is unknown for the entire galaxy, but I would appreciate a notion of the scales and locations of regions where astronomers have ventured at least a guess to the distribution of organic matter in interstellar dust.


I am specifically looking for plots showing the distribution of some selected organic compounds (doesn't really matter which ones right now) within a given section of the sky. Or, if possible, within a given arc and range with respect to the galactic center (again, if possible).


1 Answer 1


The answer depends on which you are talking about (you mentioned both organic compounds and organic matter, which are two completely different things).

Organic compounds we do not have a clear definition of, but is most agreed upon to contain carbon atoms, either on their own (C), bonded with at least one hydrogen atom (C-H), or bonded with at least one other carbon atom (C-C). Compounds such as Methane (C-H4), Ethanol (C2-H6-O), and Glucose (C6-H12-O6) are textbook examples of organic compounds. Methane has been discovered on several objects within our solar system, including Mars, Venus, and Saturn. Methane has also been discovered on the exoplanet HD 189733b (though it is the only example we have of methane on an exoplanet), and often exists in interstellar clouds, showing that it is quite common throughout our galaxy.

Organic matter refers to matter composed of organic compounds, as part of an organism. While we are searching for organic matter as proof of extraterrestrial life, we have yet to discover any organic matter or clear evidence for such matter outside of our own planet.

  • $\begingroup$ I'm referring to organic compounds. I'm particularly interested in distribution maps of some sort, for example a plots showing various compounds and their density within say a given volume of a the sky. $\endgroup$
    – revprez
    Mar 16, 2016 at 2:37

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