Free Newsletters - Space - Defense - Environment - Energy - Solar - Nuclear
..
. 24/7 Space News .




STELLAR CHEMISTRY
Astronomers discover first noble gas molecules in space
by Staff Writers
London, UK (SPX) Dec 16, 2013


In blue, visible light from the Crab Nebulam seen by the Hubble Space Telescope. This comes from emissions of gases in the nebula, which are energised by the neutron star at the centre. In red, far infrared light seen by the Herschel Space Observatory. This comes mainly from cold dust and gas. Credit: NASA, ESA, Alison Loll and Jeff Hester (University of Arizona).

Noble gas molecules have been detected in space for the first time in the Crab Nebula, a supernova remnant, by astronomers at UCL. Led by Professor Mike Barlow (UCL Department of Physics and Astronomy) the team used ESA's Herschel Space Observatory to observe the Crab Nebula in far infrared light.

Their measurements of regions of cold gas and dust led them to the serendipitous discovery of the chemical fingerprint of argon hydride ions, published today in the journal Science.

The findings support scientists' theories of how argon forms in nature.

The Herschel Space Observatory, an ESA space telescope which recently completed its mission, is the biggest space telescope ever to have flown.

Herschel's instruments were designed to detect far-infrared light, which has much longer wavelengths than we can see with our eyes.

"We were doing a survey of the dust in several bright supernova remnants using Herschel, one of which was the Crab Nebula. Discovering argon hydride ions here was unexpected because you don't expect an atom like argon, a noble gas, to form molecules, and you wouldn't expect to find them in the harsh environment of a supernova remnant," said Barlow.

Although hot objects like stars glow brightly in visible light, colder objects like the dust in nebulae radiate mainly in the infrared, wavelengths which are blocked by Earth's atmosphere.

Although nebulae can be seen in visible light, this light comes from hot excited gases within them; the cold and dusty component is invisible at optical wavelengths.

In addition to mapping the dust by making far-infrared images of the nebula, the team used Herschel's SPIRE instrument to make spectroscopic observations. In these, the infrared light is split up and dispersed according to its wavelength, much like a prism breaks white light down into its respective colours. When they looked at the data, the team saw some very unusual features which took some time to fully understand.

"Looking at infrared spectra is useful as it gives us the signatures of molecules, in particular their rotational signatures," Barlow said. "Where you have, for instance, two atoms joined together, they rotate around their shared centre of mass. The speed at which they can spin comes out at very specific, quantised, frequencies, which we can detect in the form of infrared light with our telescope."

Elements can exist in several different versions, or isotopes, which have different numbers of neutrons in their atomic nuclei. The properties of isotopes are very similar to one another in most respects, but they do differ slightly in mass. Because of this mass difference, the speed of rotation depends on which isotopes are present in a molecule.

The light coming from certain regions of the Crab Nebula showed extremely strong and unexplained peaks in intensity around 618 Gigahertz and 1235 GHz. Consulting databases of known properties of different molecules, the scientists found that the only possible explanation was that the emission was coming from spinning molecular ions of argon hydride. Moreover, the only isotope of argon whose hydride could rotate at that rate was argon-36.

In this case, energy from the neutron star at the heart of the nebula appears to have ionised the argon, which then joined with molecules of hydrogen to form the molecular ion ArH+.

Professor Bruce Swinyard (UCL Department of Physics and Astronomy and Rutherford Appleton Laboratory), a member of the team, added: "Our discovery was unexpected in another way - because normally when you find a new molecule in space, its signature is weak and you have to work hard to find it. In this case it just jumped out of our spectra."

The discovery of argon-36 in the Crab Nebula, as well as being the first detection of its kind, helps support scientists' theories of how argon forms in nature. Calculations of what elements are churned out by a supernova predict a lot of argon-36 and no argon-40 - exactly what the team observed in the Crab Nebula. On Earth, however, argon-40 is the dominant isotope as it is released by the radioactive decay of potassium in rocks.

This first discovery of an argon molecule in space continues a long tradition of noble gas research at UCL. Argon, along with the other noble gases, was discovered at UCL by William Ramsay at the end of the 19th century.

'Detection of a Noble Gas Molecular Ion, 36ArH+, in the Crab Nebula' is published online today in Science.

.


Related Links
University College London
Stellar Chemistry, The Universe And All Within It






Comment on this article via your Facebook, Yahoo, AOL, Hotmail login.

Share this article via these popular social media networks
del.icio.usdel.icio.us DiggDigg RedditReddit GoogleGoogle




Memory Foam Mattress Review
Newsletters :: SpaceDaily :: SpaceWar :: TerraDaily :: Energy Daily
XML Feeds :: Space News :: Earth News :: War News :: Solar Energy News





STELLAR CHEMISTRY
Hidden Details Revealed in Nearby Starburst Galaxy: Green Bank Telescope's new vision debuts
Charlotteville VA (SPX) Dec 13, 2013
Using the new, high-frequency capabilities of the National Science Foundation's Robert C. Byrd Green Bank Telescope (GBT), astronomers have captured never-before-seen details of the nearby starburst galaxy M82. These new data highlight streamers of material fleeing the disk of the galaxy as well as concentrations of dense molecular gas surrounding pockets of intense star formation. M82, wh ... read more


STELLAR CHEMISTRY
China's Lunar Lander May Provide Additional Science for NASA Spacecraft

China plans to launch Chang'e-5 in 2017

Mining the moon is pie in the sky for China: experts

Ancient crater could hold clues about moon's mantle

STELLAR CHEMISTRY
Opportunity Communications Remain Slow Due To Odyssey Issues

New Views of Mars from Sediment Mineralogy

NASA poised to launch Mars atmosphere probe

The Tough Task of Finding Fossils While Wearing a Spacesuit

STELLAR CHEMISTRY
IBM sees five tech-powered changes in next five years

European consortium space company to offer 'affordable' trips to space

Planning group calls for National Space Policy in Britain

Quails in orbit: French cuisine aims for the stars

STELLAR CHEMISTRY
Chinese sci-fi writers laud moon landing

China deploys 'Jade Rabbit' rover on moon

The Dragon Has Landed

Chinaese moon rover and lander photograph each other

STELLAR CHEMISTRY
Altitude of International Space Station raised

NASA mulls spacewalks to fix space station

NASA reports coolant loop problem at ISS

Space station cooling breakdown may delay Orbital launch

STELLAR CHEMISTRY
India to decide December 27 on GSAT-14 launch date

Arianespace orders 18 rockets for 2 bn euros

Iran sends second monkey into space

SpaceX to bid for rights to historic NASA launch pad

STELLAR CHEMISTRY
Astronomers solve temperature mystery of planetary atmospheres

Nearby failed stars may harbor planet

Innovative instrument probes close binary stars, may soon image exoplanets

Feature of Earth's atmosphere may help in search for habitable planets

STELLAR CHEMISTRY
Inertial Sensor Head shaken but not disturbed

Programming smart molecules

SOFS Take to Water

Rock points to potential diamond haul in Antarctica




The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2014 - Space Media Network. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA Portal Reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. Advertising does not imply endorsement,agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. Privacy Statement