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Precursors of Life-Enabling Organic Molecules in Orion Nebula Unveiled by Herschel Space Observatory

 
Anonymous Coward
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03/06/2010 01:19 PM
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Precursors of Life-Enabling Organic Molecules in Orion Nebula Unveiled by Herschel Space Observatory
ESA's Herschel Space Observatory has revealed the chemical fingerprints of potential life-enabling organic molecules in the Orion Nebula, a nearby stellar nursery in our Milky Way galaxy. This detailed spectrum -- obtained with the Heterodyne Instrument for the Far Infrared (HIFI), one of Herschel's three innovative instruments -- demonstrates the gold mine of information that Herschel-HIFI will provide on how organic molecules form in space.

Several German Institutes contributed essential parts to the HIFI instrument: the Universität zu Kölkn and the Max-Planck-Institute für Radioastronmie, Bonn, und für Sonnensystemforschung, Lindau.

Striking features in the HIFI spectrum include a rich, dense pattern of "spikes," each representing the emission of light from a specific molecule in the Orion Nebula. This nebula is known to be one of the most prolific chemical factories in space, although the full extent of its chemistry and the pathways for molecule formation are not well understood. By sifting through the pattern of spikes in this spectrum, astronomers have identified a few common molecules that appear everywhere in the spectrum. The identification of the many other emission lines is currently ongoing.

By clearly identifying the lines associated with the more common molecules, astronomers can then begin to tease out the signature of particularly interesting molecules that are the direct precursors to life-enabling molecules. A characteristic feature of the Orion spectrum is the spectral richness: among the molecules that can be identified in this spectrum are water, carbon monoxide, formaldehyde, methanol, dimethyl ether, hydrogen cyanide, sulphur oxide, sulphur dioxide and their isotope analogues. It is expected that new organic molecules will also be identified.

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[link to www.sciencedaily.com]

Last Edited by SPUD on 10/16/2011 08:48 PM





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