Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Orbiting observatory detects organic chemistry in one of the most luminous galaxies ever found

19.12.2003


An instrument aboard NASA’s recently launched orbiting infrared observatory has found evidence of organic molecules in an enormously powerful galaxy some 3.25 billion light years from the Earth. So powerful is the source, that it is equal to 10 trillion times the luminosity of the sun, making it one of the brightest galaxies ever detected.



The instrument on the newly named Spitzer Space Telescope (previously called the Space Infrared Telescope Facility, or SIRTF) is the infrared spectrograph, or IRS. James Houck, professor of astronomy at Cornell University, heads the scientific team on the $39 million IRS contract with the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., a division of the California Institute of Technology, manager of the mission for NASA.

Houck participated in a press conference at NASA headquarters in Washington, D.C., today (Dec. 18) at which the first observations and data from the half-billion-dollar observatory, launched Aug. 25, were released. Among the most spectacular details released were dazzling images taken with the space telescope’s infrared-array camera and with its multiband-imaging photometer. The images include a glowing stellar nursery; a swirling, dusty galaxy; a disc of planet-forming debris; and organic material in the distant universe.


The IRS, one of three instruments carried by the space telescope, is the most sensitive infrared spectrograph ever to go into space. In less than 15 minutes it produced a spectrum of the distant galaxy IRAS 00183, first observed by the infrared astronomical satellite (IRAS) in 1983. The spectrum "gives evidence for organic chemistry in a distant galaxy shortly after the formation of the Earth," says Houck. (While the Spitzer observatory’s cameras take infrared snapshots of distant galaxies and dust clouds, and objects too cool to emit visible light, the IRS determines their precise infrared colors. Astronomers are then able to read the peaks and valleys in the spectrum, called emission and absorption lines, to determine the chemical mix of the object being observed.)

In an optical image, the IRAS galaxy appears as no more than a faint smudge. But the IRS spectrum -- the first detailed look at the galaxy -- shows a broad silicate feature. The dominant absorber of visible energy is tiny silicate dust particles. The silicate dust is so opaque that only a small percentage of the visible light escapes the galaxy, says Houck.

"We are seeing the merger of two galaxies. This produces one of two effects: Either what we are seeing is a brief flash of incredibly strong star formation, or one or both of the galaxies contained a black hole before colliding. The massive black holes are releasing the energy by swallowing stars and gas," says Houck. In both cases, he says, the collision would compress gas that would trigger the star formation or the release of energy from the black hole, a process called "feeding the monster."

Both scenarios have problems, Houck concedes. "One is, how do you get enough gas close enough to a black hole to make all this happen? And how do you get stars to form so quickly all at the same time?"

Houck’s IRS team also released a spectrum of HH46IR, a "dusty, dirty cloud" in our galaxy, the Milky Way, that visible light is unable to penetrate. The spectrum shows the cloud to be a region of star formation containing organic materials, including methyl alcohol, carbon dioxide ice and carbon monoxide gas and ice.

Houck also notes that the IRS is "working well" and is likely to be "a workhorse for years to come." During November, he relates, the instrument was subject to a massive proton "storm" in space, with 1.6 billion atomic particles (mostly protons) bombarding a square centimeter of the instrument in just two days. "It was a staggering event," he says.

David Brand | Cornell News
Further information:
http://www.news.cornell.edu/releases/Dec03/Spitzer.Houck.deb.html
http://sirtf.caltech.edu/
http://www.news.cornell.edu/releases/SIRTF/

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht One-way roads for spin currents
23.05.2018 | Singapore University of Technology and Design

nachricht Tunable diamond string may hold key to quantum memory
23.05.2018 | Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences

All articles from Physics and Astronomy >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: LZH showcases laser material processing of tomorrow at the LASYS 2018

At the LASYS 2018, from June 5th to 7th, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) will be showcasing processes for the laser material processing of tomorrow in hall 4 at stand 4E75. With blown bomb shells the LZH will present first results of a research project on civil security.

At this year's LASYS, the LZH will exhibit light-based processes such as cutting, welding, ablation and structuring as well as additive manufacturing for...

Im Focus: Self-illuminating pixels for a new display generation

There are videos on the internet that can make one marvel at technology. For example, a smartphone is casually bent around the arm or a thin-film display is rolled in all directions and with almost every diameter. From the user's point of view, this looks fantastic. From a professional point of view, however, the question arises: Is that already possible?

At Display Week 2018, scientists from the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Polymer Research IAP will be demonstrating today’s technological possibilities and...

Im Focus: Explanation for puzzling quantum oscillations has been found

So-called quantum many-body scars allow quantum systems to stay out of equilibrium much longer, explaining experiment | Study published in Nature Physics

Recently, researchers from Harvard and MIT succeeded in trapping a record 53 atoms and individually controlling their quantum state, realizing what is called a...

Im Focus: Dozens of binaries from Milky Way's globular clusters could be detectable by LISA

Next-generation gravitational wave detector in space will complement LIGO on Earth

The historic first detection of gravitational waves from colliding black holes far outside our galaxy opened a new window to understanding the universe. A...

Im Focus: Entangled atoms shine in unison

A team led by Austrian experimental physicist Rainer Blatt has succeeded in characterizing the quantum entanglement of two spatially separated atoms by observing their light emission. This fundamental demonstration could lead to the development of highly sensitive optical gradiometers for the precise measurement of the gravitational field or the earth's magnetic field.

The age of quantum technology has long been heralded. Decades of research into the quantum world have led to the development of methods that make it possible...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Save the date: Forum European Neuroscience – 07-11 July 2018 in Berlin, Germany

02.05.2018 | Event News

Invitation to the upcoming "Current Topics in Bioinformatics: Big Data in Genomics and Medicine"

13.04.2018 | Event News

Unique scope of UV LED technologies and applications presented in Berlin: ICULTA-2018

12.04.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Research reveals how order first appears in liquid crystals

23.05.2018 | Life Sciences

Space-like gravity weakens biochemical signals in muscle formation

23.05.2018 | Life Sciences

NIST puts the optical microscope under the microscope to achieve atomic accuracy

23.05.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>