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)
Nebular and auroral emission lines of [Cl III] in the optical spectra of planetary nebulae.
Electron impact excitation rates in Cl III, recently determined with the R-matrix code, are used to calculate electron temperature (T(e)) and density (N(e)) emission line ratios involving both the nebular (5517.7, 5537.9 A) and auroral (8433.9, 8480.9, 8500.0 A) transitions. A comparison of these results with observational data for a sample of planetary nebulae, obtained with the Hamilton Echelle Spectrograph on the 3-m Shane Telescope, reveals that the R(1) = I(5518 A)/I(5538 A) intensity ratio provides estimates of N(e) in excellent agreement with the values derived from other line ratios in the echelle spectra. This agreement indicates that R(1) is a reliable density diagnostic for planetary nebulae, and it also provides observational support for the accuracy of the atomic data adopted in the line ratio calculations. However the [Cl iii] 8433.9 A line is found to be frequently blended with a weak telluric emission feature, although in those instances when the [Cl iii] intensity may be reliably measured, it provides accurate determinations of T(e) when ratioed against the sum of the 5518 and 5538 A line fluxes. Similarly, the 8500.0 A line, previously believed to be free of contamination by the Earth's atmosphere, is also shown to be generally blended with a weak telluric emission feature. The [Cl iii] transition at 8480.9 A is found to be blended with the He i 8480.7 A line, except in planetary nebulae that show a relatively weak He i spectrum, where it also provides reliable estimates of T(e) when ratioed against the nebular lines. Finally, the diagnostic potential of the near-UV [Cl iii] lines at 3344 and 3354 A is briefly discussed. (+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)