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Astrochemistry: The chemistry of stars and interstellar space.


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Two Highly Complex Organic Molecules Detected In Space Last Updated on 2009-04-22 00:00:00 Max-Planck-Institute for Radio Astronomy (Apr. 22, 2009) – Scientists from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy (MPIfR) in Bonn, Germany, Cornell University, USA, and the University of Cologne, Germany, have detected two of the most complex molecules yet discovered in interstellar space: ethyl formate and n-propyl cyanide. Their computational models of interstellar chemistry also indicate that even larger organic molecules may be present - including the so-far elusive amino acids, which are essential for organic life. The results were presented at the European Week of Astronomy and Space Science at the University of Hertfordshire on Tuesday 21st April. FIGURE CAPTION – Two new highly complex organic molecules detected in space. Left: Ethyl formate, Right: n-Propyl cyanide. Colour code of the atomic constituents of both molecules: hydogen (H): white, carbon (C): grey, oxygen... More »
Notes from the Astronomy Underground- Astropalooza Last Updated on 2008-09-28 00:00:00   According to the tagline in Ridley Scott’s 1979 blockbuster Alien, “In space, no one can hear you scream.” It’s true that sound waves, unlike light, need a medium- some kind of substance to carry their energy across a distance. And space is a vacuum, which, save the occasional solar system, fuzzy nebula, or bizarre stellar end product, is devoid of any respectable amount of matter. No matter, no sound, right?   Well, almost. Space is not completely empty. There are about one or two hydrogen molecules per square centimeter in the sparsest of regions. It beats our clumsy, terrestrial vacuum chambers handedly, but it’s not a vacuum in the strictest connotation of the word. Sound waves can still propagate through space, but so slowly and ineffectively that it would be pointless for aerophilic humans to do anything about it. Unless of course, we had ears many millions... More »
Lunar Eclipse - February 20, 2008 Last Updated on 2008-02-28 00:00:00 During the evening of February 20th, a total lunar eclipse will begin at 5:45 p.m. PST / 8:45 p.m. EST.  The next total lunar eclipse won't be until 2010. "A lunar eclipse occurs when the Earth lines up directly between the sun and the moon, casting a shadow over the moon's surface. The February 20, 2008 eclipse will last for nearly 3 and a half hours. For a full 50 minutes of that time the moon will be in totality - the period when the lunar surface is completely covered by the Earth's shadow." "During an eclipse the moon changes color, going from a light gray color to an orange or deep red shade. This is totality. The moon takes on this new color because indirect sunlight is still able to pass through the Earth's atmosphere and cast a glow on the moon." Figure 1. This map shows when the eclipse will be visible across the United States. Image credit: NASA. "The exact color that... More »