Noble gases also combine in space
13-12-2013

An international team, with the participation of the Center for Astrobiology (CSIC-INTA), observing the Crab Nebula in the infrared with the space observatory HERSCHEL has found the first evidence of a molecule based on the argon noble gas in the space.

One of the bases on which Astrophysics is based to interpret what is observed in the Universe is to consider that the laws of Physics and Chemistry are equal in all their extension and, therefore, all the elements that we know on Earth are the same as we could find in any other galaxy. Also that, saving the conditions of each place, the atoms and molecules must be the same. However, until now, there was a class of molecules that had not been found: the one made up of the so-called noble gases.

Using the traditional representation of the Periodic Table of the Elements, sorted according to their number atomic and aligned by the number of "external" electrons (those that provide their chemical characteristics), in the column to the right are the noble gases: helium, neon, argon, krypton, xenon and radon. Having their complete external level of electrons (two in the case of helium and eight for the rest), they are usually found in nature in isolation because their ability to react with other elements and form compounds is very small. But not null and in the laboratory has studied a good number of molecules formed by noble gases.

Although the space seems to be a good chemical laboratory in which a variety of compounds is produced, from the simplest and most abundant molecules such as water (H 2 O) or carbon dioxide (CO 2 ), to large organic molecules such as PAH or some amino acids, in the case of noble gases things are not so simple. Thus, although atoms or noble gas ions had already been detected, until now none of the compounds based on noble gases had been found, suggesting that these elements require a longer reaction time with other species in space.

A new study led by Michael Barlow of the University College London (United Kingdom), in which José Cernicharo, Research Professor of the CSIC at the Center for Astrobiology (CAB, CSIC-INTA), participates and based on data obtained With ESA's Herschel Space Observatory, it has found the first evidence of one of these components in space when detecting the emission of argon hydride (ArH +), a molecular ion containing the argon noble gas, in the Crab Nebula. The results are published in the prestigious journal Science.

"This type of molecules had been produced in laboratories but it was not known if there were adequate conditions for their formation in the space. Now we know that yes and this discovery will allow us to study much more in detail the interaction of the supernovas with the environment that surrounds them ", highlights José Cernicharo, Research Professor of the CSIC at the Center for Astrobiology (CSIC-INTA). The compound found is based on the isotope (the isotopes are elements with the same number of protons in their nucleus but differ in the number of neutrons) of argon with atomic mass 36 (36Ar) unlike the 40Ar that is found habitually on Earth. This is because the 40Ar on Earth comes from the disintegration of potassium, while the 36Ar, which in space is the most abundant, occurs abundantly in supernova explosions.

The Crab Nebula ( Messier 1) is a filamentous and diffuse structure in the Taurus constellation formed after the explosion of a supernova observed in 1054 by Chinese astronomers.

More information: < p> Scientific article:
"Detection of a Noble Gas Molecular Ion, 36ArH +, in the Crab Nebula", MJ Barlow, BM Swinyard, PJ Owen, J. Cernicharo, HL Gomez, RJ Ivison, O. Krause, TL Lim , M. Matsuura, S. Miller, G. Olofsson, ET Polehampton. Science, 342, 6163, 1343-1345, 13 December 2013. DOI: 10.1126 / science.1243582

Contact

José Cernicharo Quintanilla, Center for Astrobiology (CSIC-INTA)

Scientific Culture Unit of the CAB: Luis Cuesta

 

Fuente: UCC-CAB

 

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