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University of Georgia researchers show component of mothballs is present in deep-space clouds
Date:9/2/2009

Interstellar clouds, drifting through the unimaginable vastness of space, may be the stuff dreams are made of. But it turns out there's an unexpectedly strange component in those clouds, and it's not dreams butmothballs?

Well, not exactly, but researchers from the University of Georgia have just shown for the first time that one component of clouds emitting unusual infrared light know as the Unidentified Infrared Bands (UIRs) is a gaseous version of naphthalene, the chief component of mothballs back on Earth. The UIRs have been seen by astronomers for more than 30 years, but no one has ever identified what specific molecules cause these patterns.

The discovery that a special kind of naphthalene with a single extra proton is out in space is important to those studying interstellar regions for many reasons. One of the most important is that the UIRs are associated with interstellar dust, and understanding the components of that dust could give clues to the origin of these mysterious voyagers. The new information may also provide insights into stellar lifecycles.

The research, led by Michael Duncan, Regents Professor of Chemistry at UGA, was just published in the Astrophysical Journal. The department of chemistry is part of UGA's Franklin College of Arts and Sciences. Co-authors on the paper were Allen Ricks, a doctoral student in Duncan's lab and Gary Douberly, formerly a postdoctoral associate in Duncan's lab and now an assistant professor in the department of chemistry at UGA.

The work was supported by the National Science Foundation.

"This came about because we found a way in our lab to make protonated naphthalene ions," said Duncan, "and that allowed us to examine its infrared spectrum. It turned out to be a near-perfect match for one of the main features in the UIRs."

That naphthalene is part of the UIRs is not totally unexpected, as it is composed of only hydrogen and carbon. Hydrogen composes b
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Contact: Philiip Lee Williams
phil@franklin.uga.edu
706-542-8501
University of Georgia
Source:Eurekalert

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