UV irradiation of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in ices: production of alcohols, quinones, and ethers.
Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) in water ice were exposed to ultraviolet (UV) radiation under astrophysical conditions, and the products were analyzed by infrared spectroscopy and mass spectrometry. Peripheral carbon atoms were oxidized, producing aromatic alcohols, ketones, and ethers, and reduced, producing partially hydrogenated aromatic hydrocarbons, molecules that account for the interstellar 3.4-micrometer emission feature. These classes of compounds are all present in carbonaceous meteorites. Hydrogen and deuterium atoms exchange readily between the PAHs and the ice, which may explain the deuterium enrichments found in certain meteoritic molecules. This work has important implications for extraterrestrial organics in biogenesis. (+info)
Condensation of carbon in radioactive supernova gas.
Chemistry resulting in the formation of large carbon-bearing molecules and dust in the interior of an expanding supernova was explored, and the equations governing their abundances were solved numerically. Carbon dust condenses from initially gaseous carbon and oxygen atoms because energetic electrons produced by radioactivity in the supernova cause dissociation of the carbon monoxide molecules, which would otherwise form and limit the supply of carbon atoms. The resulting free carbon atoms enable carbon dust to grow faster by carbon association than the rate at which the dust can be destroyed by oxidation. The origin of presolar micrometer-sized carbon solids that are found in meteorites is thereby altered. (+info)
In search of planets and life around other stars.
The discovery of over a dozen low-mass companions to nearby stars has intensified scientific and public interest in a longer term search for habitable planets like our own. However, the nature of the detected companions, and in particular whether they resemble Jupiter in properties and origin, remains undetermined. (+info)
Black holes in the milky way galaxy.
Extremely strong observational evidence has recently been found for the presence of black holes orbiting a few relatively normal stars in our Milky Way Galaxy and also at the centers of some galaxies. The former generally have masses of 4-16 times the mass of the sun, whereas the latter are "supermassive black holes" with millions to billions of solar masses. The evidence for a supermassive black hole in the center of our galaxy is especially strong. (+info)
Is redshift-dependent evolution of galaxies a theoretical artifact?
The physical validity of the hypothesis of (redshift-dependent) luminosity evolution in galaxies is tested by statistical analysis of an intensively studied complete high-redshift sample of normal galaxies. The necessity of the evolution hypothesis in the frame of big-bang cosmology is confirmed at a high level of statistical significance; however, this evolution is quantitatively just as predicted by chronometric cosmology, in which there is no such evolution. Since there is no direct observational means to establish the evolution postulated in big-bang studies of higher-redshift galaxies, and the chronometric predictions involve no adjustable parameters (in contrast to the two in big-bang cosmology), the hypothesized evolution appears from the standpoint of conservative scientific methodology as a possible theoretical artifact. (+info)
Neutrinos represent a new "window" to the Universe, spanning a large range of energy. We discuss the science of neutrino astrophysics and focus on two energy regimes. At "lower" energies ( approximately 1 MeV), studies of neutrinos born inside the sun, or produced in interactions of cosmic rays with the atmosphere, have allowed the first incontrovertible evidence that neutrinos have mass. At energies typically one thousand to one million times higher, sources further than the sun (both within the Milky Way and beyond) are expected to produce a flux of particles that can be detected only through neutrinos. (+info)
Titanium carbide nanocrystals in circumstellar environments.
Meteorites contain micrometer-sized graphite grains with embedded titanium carbide grains. Although isotopic analysis identifies asymptotic giant branch stars as the birth sites of these grains, there is no direct observational identification of these grains in astronomical sources. We report that infrared wavelength spectra of gas-phase titanium carbide nanocrystals derived in the laboratory show a prominent feature at a wavelength of 20.1 micrometers, which compares well to a similar feature in observed spectra of postasymptotic giant branch stars. It is concluded that titanium carbide forms during a short (approximately 100 years) phase of catastrophic mass loss (>0.001 solar masses per year) in dying, low-mass stars. (+info)
Windows through the dusty disks surrounding the youngest low-mass protostellar objects.
The formation and evolution of young low-mass stars are characterized by important processes of mass loss and accretion occurring in the innermost regions of their placentary circumstellar disks. Because of the large obscuration of these disks at optical and infrared wavelengths in the early protostellar stages (class 0 sources), they were previously detected only at radio wavelengths using interferometric techniques. We have detected with the Infrared Space Observatory the mid-infrared (mid-IR) emission associated with the class 0 protostar VLA1 in the HH1-HH2 region located in the Orion nebula. The emission arises in three wavelength windows (at 5. 3, 6.6, and 7.5 micrometers) where the absorption due to ices and silicates has a local minimum that exposes the central part of the young protostellar system to mid-IR investigations. The mid-IR emission arises from a central source with a diameter of 4 astronomical units at an averaged temperature of approximately 700 K, deeply embedded in a dense region with a visual extinction of 80 to 100 magnitudes. (+info)