Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Tarlike Macro-Molecules Detected In "Stardust'"

Date:
April 27, 2000
Source:
Max Planck Society
Summary:
The first in-situ chemical analysis of interstellar dust particles produces a puzzling result: These cosmic particles consist mostly of 3-dimensionally cross-linked organic macro-molecules, so-called polymeric-heterocyclic-aromates.

Mass-spectrometer CIDA of the Garching based Max-Planck-Institut on the NASA spacecraft STARDUST produces puzzling results

The first in-situ chemical analysis of interstellar dust particles produces a puzzling result: These cosmic particles consist mostly of 3-dimensionally cross-linked organic macro-molecules, so-called polymeric-heterocyclic-aromates. "They rather resemble tar-like substances than minerals" say Dr. Franz R. Krueger (contractor) and Dr.Jochen Kissel, Max-Planck-Institut für extraterrestrische Physik (for extraterrestrial Physics), Garching near Munich, Germany, in the latest issue of 'Sterne und Weltraum' a monthly, German language Astronomy magazine in Heidelberg, Germany.

So far, 5 interstellar dust particles (= dust between the stars) have hit the Garching built dust impact mass spectrometer CIDA (= Cometary and Interstellar Dust Analyzer) onboard the NASA spacecraft STARDUST. Launched on Feb 7th 1999 STARDUST will visit comet Wild-2 (pronounce Vild-2) in 2004.

To reach the comet, STARDUST has to perform three orbits about the sun. At the close fly-by (miss-distance 500 km/300 miles) another instrument will collect cometary dust and return it, well packed, to earth in January of 2006. During its 7 year mission, STARDUST will face the stream of interstellar dust several times. This dust is part of the local environment in the Milky Way which the solar system currently passes through at high speed. It has recently be seen by dust instruments of the Heidelberg based Max-Planck-Institut für Kernphysik (= for Nuclear Physics) on both NASA's Galileo and ESA's Ulysses spacecrafts. The first measuring campaign for CIDA from February through December 1999 has produced the new results.

During this time STARDUST was at a distance of about 240 million Kilometers (150 Million miles) from the earth when the first impact occurred. Just before the campaign the spacecraft pointed the instrument into the direction of the interstellar dust, so that it would not measure the more frequent interplanetary dust particles, which are parts of our solar system.

At an impact speed of about 30 kilometers/second (18 miles/second) these interstellar dust particles are vaporized immediately and broken up into molecular fragments. A fraction of those carries a positive or negative electronic charge. By its electric field in front of the target CIDA pulls the positive ions into the instrument to the detector. Depending on their mass it takes the ions different times to travel the 1.5 meters (5 feet) distance (heavier ions travel longer). This way they are detected mass after mass with in some 200 millionth of a second, and a mass spectrum is generated.

"It is the size of these molecular fragments with nuclear masses of up to 2000 (water e.g. has 18 such units) which surprised us as much as the seemingly absence of any mineral constituents", explains Dr. Kissel of the Garching based Max-Planck-Institut für extraterrestrische Physik. "Only organic molecules can reach those sizes". The largest molecules found in space so far are the polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH) which reach masses of a few hundred mass units.

The details of the mass spectra measured with CIDA show that the molecules of the interstellar dust must have about 10% of Nitrogen and / or Oxygen in addition to hydrogen and Carbon. This means that these cannot be pure PAHs, which are planar, but are especially due to the nitrogen extend into all three spacial directions.

Such three dimensional molecules can form links to their neighbours and reach a thermal stability necessary to survive the trip into the inner solar system with 300 to 350 Kelvin (70 to 180 degrees Fahrenheit). "The organic material analyzed with CIDA in the interstellar dust particles is another type of reactive molecules which we found in the dust of comet Halley 14 years ago" says Dr. Kissel. "When they got in contact with liquid water on the young earth, they could have triggered the type of chemical reactions which are a prerequisite for the origin of life."

Related web-pages:

STARDUST: http://stardust.jpl.nasa.gov/

CIDA: http://www.geo.fmi.fi/PLANETS/


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Max Planck Society. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Max Planck Society. "Tarlike Macro-Molecules Detected In "Stardust'"." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 27 April 2000. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2000/04/000427072933.htm>.
Max Planck Society. (2000, April 27). Tarlike Macro-Molecules Detected In "Stardust'". ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 21, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2000/04/000427072933.htm
Max Planck Society. "Tarlike Macro-Molecules Detected In "Stardust'"." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2000/04/000427072933.htm (accessed October 21, 2014).

Share This



More Matter & Energy News

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Thanks, Marty McFly! Hoverboards Could Be Coming In 2015

Thanks, Marty McFly! Hoverboards Could Be Coming In 2015

Newsy (Oct. 21, 2014) — If you've ever watched "Back to the Future Part II" and wanted to get your hands on a hoverboard, well, you might soon be in luck. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Robots to Fly Planes Where Humans Can't

Robots to Fly Planes Where Humans Can't

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Oct. 21, 2014) — Researchers in South Korea are developing a robotic pilot that could potentially replace humans in the cockpit. Unlike drones and autopilot programs which are configured for specific aircraft, the robots' humanoid design will allow it to fly any type of plane with no additional sensors. Ben Gruber reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Graphene Paint Offers Rust-Free Future

Graphene Paint Offers Rust-Free Future

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Oct. 21, 2014) — British scientists have developed a prototype graphene paint that can make coatings which are resistant to liquids, gases, and chemicals. The team says the paint could have a variety of uses, from stopping ships rusting to keeping food fresher for longer. Jim Drury reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
China Airlines Swanky New Plane

China Airlines Swanky New Plane

Buzz60 (Oct. 21, 2014) — China Airlines debuted their new Boeing 777, and it's more like a swanky hotel bar than an airplane. Enjoy high-tea, a coffee bar, and a full service bar with cocktails and spirits, and lie-flat in your reclining seats. Sean Dowling (@SeanDowlingTV) has the details. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

 

Space & Time

Matter & Energy

Computers & Math

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins