Artist's conception of the building blocks of Life.
© National Aeronautics & Space Administration / Science & Society
Symbolic representation of complex organic molecules, known as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, seen in the early universe. NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope is the first telescope to see these large molecules, made of carbon and hydrogen, so early - 10 billion years further back in time than seen previously. Spitzer detected these molecules in galaxies when our universe was a quarter of its current age of about 14 billion years. These molecules are very common on and can be found in sooty exhaust from cars and planes, charcoal broiled hamburgers and burnt toast. Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons are pervasive in galaxies like our own Milky Way, and play a significant role in star and planet formation.