Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Carbon-based organic 'carriers' in interstellar dust clouds? Newly discovered diffuse interstellar bands

Date:
November 6, 2011
Source:
Rochester Institute of Technology
Summary:
The discovery of 13 diffuse interstellar bands with the longest wavelengths to date could someday solve a 90-year-old mystery. Astronomers have now discovered new bands using data collected by the Gemini North telescope of stars in the center of the Milky Way. The new findings support recent ideas about the presence of large, possibly carbon-based organic molecules -— “carriers” —- hidden in interstellar dust clouds.

DIBs found in an earlier survey by P. Jenniskens and F.-X. Desert. The discovery of 13 diffuse interstellar bands with the longest wavelengths to date could someday solve a 90-year-old mystery.
Credit: NASA/P. Jenniskens and F.-X. Desert

The discovery of 13 diffuse interstellar bands with the longest wavelengths to date could someday solve a 90-year-old mystery. Astronomers have identified the new bands using data collected by the Gemini North telescope of stars in the center of the Milky Way.

Nature now reports on its website findings that support recent ideas about the presence of large, possibly carbon-based organic molecules -- "carriers" -- hidden in interstellar dust clouds. The paper will also appear in the Nov. 10 print issue of the journal.

"These diffuse interstellar bands -- or DIBs -- have never been seen before," says Donald Figer, director of the Center for Detectors at Rochester Institute of Technology and a co-author of the study. "Spectra of stars have absorption lines because gas and dust along the line of sight to the stars absorb some of the light."

"The most recent ideas are that diffuse interstellar bands are relatively simple carbon bearing molecules, similar to amino acids," he continues. "Maybe these are amino acid chains in space, which supports the theory that the seeds of life originated in space and rained down on planets."

"Observations in different Galactic sight lines indicate that the material responsible for these DIBs 'survives' under different physical conditions of temperature and density," adds Paco Najarro, scientist in the Department of Astrophysics in the Center of Astrobiology in Madrid.

The low-energy absorption lines Figer and his colleagues discovered provide constraints for determining the nature of diffuse interstellar bands. Future theoretical models that predict wavelengths absorbed by these mysterious particles now must accommodate these lower energies, Figer notes.

"We saw the same absorption lines in the spectra of every star," Figer says. "If we look at the exact wavelength of the features, we can figure out the kind of gas and dust between us and the stars that is absorbing the light."

Diffuse interstellar bands have remained a puzzle since their initial discovery 90 years ago. The 500 bands identified before this study mostly occur at visible and near-infrared wavelengths. The observed lines do not match predicted lines of simple molecules and cannot be pinned to a single carrier.

"None of the diffuse interstellar bands has been convincingly identified with a specific element or molecule, and indeed their identification, individually and collectively, is one of the greatest challenges in astronomical spectroscopy," says lead author Thomas Geballe, from the Gemini Observatory. "Recent studies have suggested that DIB carriers are large carbon-containing molecules."

The newly discovered infrared bands can be used as probes of the diffuse interstellar medium, especially in regions in which thick dust and gas obscure observations in the optical and shorter wavelength bands.

Studying the stronger emissions in the group may lead to an understanding of their molecular origin. Some day laboratory spectroscopy could be used to identify the infrared diffuse interstellar bands. No one has been successful yet at reproducing the interstellar bands in laboratory, Figer notes, due to the multitude of possibilities and the difficulty of reproducing the temperatures and pressures the gas would experience in space.

In addition to Geballe, Najarro and Figer, co-authors of the paper included Najarro's student Diego de la Fuente and former Gemini science intern Barrett Schlegelmilch.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Rochester Institute of Technology. The original article was written by Susan Gawlowicz. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. T. R. Geballe, F. Najarro, D. F. Figer, B. W. Schlegelmilch, D. de la Fuente. Infrared diffuse interstellar bands in the Galactic Centre region. Nature, 2011; DOI: 10.1038/nature10527

Cite This Page:

Rochester Institute of Technology. "Carbon-based organic 'carriers' in interstellar dust clouds? Newly discovered diffuse interstellar bands." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 6 November 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/11/111102161149.htm>.
Rochester Institute of Technology. (2011, November 6). Carbon-based organic 'carriers' in interstellar dust clouds? Newly discovered diffuse interstellar bands. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 22, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/11/111102161149.htm
Rochester Institute of Technology. "Carbon-based organic 'carriers' in interstellar dust clouds? Newly discovered diffuse interstellar bands." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/11/111102161149.htm (accessed October 22, 2014).

Share This



More Space & Time News

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Russian Cosmonauts Kick Off Final Spacewalk of 2014

Russian Cosmonauts Kick Off Final Spacewalk of 2014

Reuters - US Online Video (Oct. 22, 2014) — Russian cosmonauts Maxim Suraev and Alexander Samokutyaev step outside the International Space Station to perform work on the exterior of the station's Russian module. Rough Cut (no reporter narration) Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Comet Siding Spring Grazes Mars' Atmosphere

Comet Siding Spring Grazes Mars' Atmosphere

Newsy (Oct. 19, 2014) — A comet from the farthest reaches of the solar system passed extremely close to Mars this weekend, giving astronomers a rare opportunity to study it. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Latin America Launches Communications Satellite

Latin America Launches Communications Satellite

AFP (Oct. 17, 2014) — Argentina launches a home-built satellite, a first for Latin America. It will ride a French-made Ariane 5 rocket into orbit, and will provide cell phone, digital TV, Internet and data services to the lower half of South America. Duration: 00:41 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
This Week @ NASA, October 17, 2014

This Week @ NASA, October 17, 2014

NASA (Oct. 17, 2014) — Power spacewalk, MAVEN’s “First Light”, Hubble finds extremely distant galaxy and more... Video provided by NASA
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