The mysterious spectral bands in the infrared of interstellar gas clouds in deep space originate from organic compounds. Research by the Nijmegen physicist Hans Piest confirms this. He has provided new experimental evidence for this almost 30-year-old problem in astronomy.
Each molecule has specific wavelengths at which it can either absorb or emit light. This forms the fingerprint of a substance. With this fingerprint, astronomers can demonstrate the presence of a substance in a distant star or cloud. In a wide range of lines of sight, in the almost empty interstellar space, bright infrared emission is observed, the spectrum of which has become commonly known as the “Unidentified Infrared Bands”. The most widely accepted hypothesis is that complex organic compounds cause the bands. Put more precisely it is thought to be a mixture of various polyaromatic hydrocarbons, each containing about fifty carbon atoms. Nobody had yet succeeded in measuring the spectrum of these complex molecules under conditions comparable to the cold gas situation in deep space where these spectra are found. In deep space the molecules are so far apart that they no longer collide with each other. Collisions dramatically influence the spectrum. It is difficult to create a collision-free situation in the laboratory. Furthermore, the substance is so rarefied that a spectrum can scarcely be measured. Hans Piest found a way of measuring the spectrum indirectly. For this he made use of a special laser from the Institute for Plasma Physics (FOM) in Rijnhuizen. It is a free-electron laser which can produce every desired wavelength between 5 and 250 microns. There are only a few examples of this type of laser in the world. The physicist synthesised polyaromatic hydrocarbons and bound each of these molecules to a noble gas atom. This can only be done at a temperature just above absolute zero. The bonding energy of noble gas atoms is so small that it scarcely affects the spectrum. In order to investigate which wavelengths this complex can absorb he bombarded its with laser light, using a different wavelength for each bombardment. The light from this laser is sufficient to disassociate the weakly bound noble gas molecule from the organic compound. A sensitive mass spectrometer was able to determine whether the organic substance was produced as a function of the infrared wavelength. The physicist used various noble gas atoms and repeatedly obtained the same spectrum. This strongly indicates that the noble gas did not disrupt the spectrum. The spectra measured strongly agreed with previously disputed measurements from NASA. They had directly determined the very weak absorption spectrum of various sorts of polyaromatic hydrocarbons frozen in noble gas ice. These measurements were controversial because the influence of the noble gas ice was difficult to estimate. Now the question still remains as to exactly which polyaromatics are found in space.
Michel Philippens | alphagalileo
Explosion on Jupiter-sized star 10 times more powerful than ever seen on our sun
18.04.2019 | University of Warwick
In vivo super-resolution photoacoustic computed tomography by localization of single dyed droplets
18.04.2019 | Changchun Institute of Optics, Fine Mechanics and Physics, Chinese Academy of Sciences
A stellar flare 10 times more powerful than anything seen on our sun has burst from an ultracool star almost the same size as Jupiter
A localization phenomenon boosts the accuracy of solving quantum many-body problems with quantum computers which are otherwise challenging for conventional computers. This brings such digital quantum simulation within reach on quantum devices available today.
Quantum computers promise to solve certain computational problems exponentially faster than any classical machine. “A particularly promising application is the...
The technology could revolutionize how information travels through data centers and artificial intelligence networks
Engineers at the University of California, Berkeley have built a new photonic switch that can control the direction of light passing through optical fibers...
Physicists observe how electron-hole pairs drift apart at ultrafast speed, but still remain strongly bound.
Modern electronics relies on ultrafast charge motion on ever shorter length scales. Physicists from Regensburg and Gothenburg have now succeeded in resolving a...
Engineers create novel optical devices, including a moth eye-inspired omnidirectional microwave antenna
A team of engineers at Tufts University has developed a series of 3D printed metamaterials with unique microwave or optical properties that go beyond what is...
17.04.2019 | Event News
15.04.2019 | Event News
09.04.2019 | Event News
18.04.2019 | Life Sciences
18.04.2019 | Physics and Astronomy
18.04.2019 | Life Sciences