Key to unlock mysterious red glow in space revealed

August 3rd, 2010 - 5:26 pm ICT by ANI  

Washington, August 3 (ANI): NASA scientists created a unique collection of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (PAH) spectra to interpret mysterious emission from space.

PAHs are a major product of combustion, remain in the environment, and are carcinogenic. are flat, chicken-wire shaped, nano-sized molecules that are very common on Earth.

For years, scientists have been studying a mysterious infrared glow from the Milky Way and other galaxies, radiating from dusty regions in deep space.

By duplicating the harsh conditions of space in their laboratories and computers, scientists have identified the mystifying infrared emitters as PAHs.

“Besides astronomical applications, this PAH database and software can be useful as a new research tool for scientists, educators, policy makers, and consultants working in the fields of medicine, health, chemistry, fuel composition, engine design, environmental assessment, environmental monitoring, and environmental protection,” said Louis Allamandola, an astrochemistry researcher at NASA’s Ames Research Center.

To better understand PAHs, earlier thought to be too complex to be present in space, their spectra were measured under astronomical conditions.

The spectra have given insights into the PAHs in space that were impossible to get any other way.

One can explore the database by charge, composition and spectral signatures. Tools allow users to do analyses online. For example, spectra can be combined to create a “composite” signature that can be compared directly to the spectrum of “unknown” material.

“Thanks to the great sensitivity of the Spitzer Telescope, PAHs are seen across the universe, removing any doubt of the importance of these species,” said Allamandola. (ANI)

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