September 8, 2009
Naphthalene found in deep space clouds
U.S. scientists say they have determined a component of deep space clouds is also found on Earth -- in mothballs.
University of Georgia researchers said they have shown for the first time that one component of clouds emitting unusual infrared, known as the Unidentified Infrared Bands, is a gaseous version of naphthalene, the chief component of mothballs. The unidentified infrared band stellar clouds have been seen by astronomers for more than 30 years, but no one has ever identified what specific molecules cause those infrared patterns.
The scientists, led by Professor Michael Duncan, said their discovery is important for many reasons, one of which is that the unidentified infrared bands are associated with interstellar dust, and understanding the components of that dust could provide clues to the origin of the mysterious clouds. The new information may also provide insights into stellar life cycles.
Duncan said the discovery was made possible
because we found a way in our lab to make protonated naphthalene ions 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 (unidentified infrared band clouds).
The research that also involved Allen Ricks and Gary Douberly appeared in the Astrophysical Journal.