Scientists Find Possible Origin of Mysterious Red and Blue Lights in Milky Way Galaxy

Aug 02, 2006
Scientists Find Possible Origin of Mysterious Red and Blue Lights in the Milky Way Galaxy
The structure of two recently discovered silicon oxide nanoparticles, their properties provide a formation mechanism for larger silicates and are a potential source of luminescence in the interstellar medium. Credit: A. Reber, VCU

NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md., in collaboration with university scientists, have solved yet another mystery. For years, scientists have observed unstructured silicate particles in space, but could not pinpoint the origin of recent observation of wide presence of crystalline silicates or their role in the Milky Way Galaxy.

The work of Ashraf Ali from Goddard, Shiv N. Khanna from Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, and A.W. Castleman, Jr. from Pennsylvania State University, University Park., have successfully created nanoclusters of silicates. They were also able to predict that these particles have absorption features from the red and blue lights found throughout the Galaxy, and could be the original building blocks of Earth and other planets in our solar system.

To further understand these silicon oxide nanoparticles (tiny particles), Castleman and his colleagues undertook studies of cluster formation and their growth under expanding plasma-jet conditions (ionized gas) and followed the changing composition of these clusters. The experiments were designed to enable insights into formation mechanisms operative in the regions of circumstellar environments (the space around stars) where silicates are often found. By exposing silicon monoxide to the plasma conditions, they were able to convert silicon oxide gas to clusters of silicon oxide nanoparticles.

The formation of these particles had never been observed or proven, that is, before Ali, Castleman, Khanna and their coworkers began their study. Employing theoretical methods to study the growth of silicon oxide nanoparticles, Khanna and his colleagues obtained direct insight into mechanisms and unraveled two puzzling mysteries. First, they demonstrated the mechanisms that might be responsible for the formation of silicates providing another step towards the understanding of the history of the formation of our solar system.

Secondly, the silicon oxide nanoparticles have electronic properties that allow the absorption of the blue and red light and it might relate to the absorption of starlight and emission of red and blue light known as Extended Red Emission and Blue Luminescence consequently. Astronomers have long observed the red lights in the Milky Way Galaxy but have never been able to determine the exact nature of particles that were responsible for the emission.

"To understand the chemical evolution of the formation of planets, we have to understand the composition and degree of crystallinity of grains in interstellar space" said Ali.

By determining the role of the chemical processes involved in the formation of solids, scientists understand more of the mechanics that inspired the creation of Earth and its neighboring planets. The particles discovered likely played a major role in dust formation process in circumstellar environments of young and evolved stars.

Ali and his colleagues conducted their experimental research at the Pennsylvania State University Chemical Physics Laboratories in University Park, Penn., and the theoretical work in the Physics Department of The Virginia Commonwealth University. The investigations were made possible by funding from NASA, the U.S. Air Force and the Department of Energy.

The results were published in the June 19 American Chemical Society's Nanoletters journal (Nanoletters, vol 6, p1190)

Source: by Nancy Neal, Goddard Space Flight Center

Explore further: Atom-thick CCD could capture images: Scientists develop two-dimensional, light-sensitive material

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

A universe of 10 dimensions

Dec 11, 2014

When someone mentions "different dimensions," we tend to think of things like parallel universes – alternate realities that exist parallel to our own, but where things work or happened differently. However, ...

Study examines important Ebola protein

Dec 10, 2014

A new study by Robert Stahelin, an adjunct associate professor of chemistry and biochemistry at the University of Notre Dame and an associate professor at the Indiana University School of Medicine-South Bend, ...

What makes Champagne bubbly?

Dec 09, 2014

(Phys.org)—Just in time for the holidays, scientists have unraveled some of the chemistry behind the diffusion of CO2 molecules in a glass of Champagne. Among their findings, they discovered that ethan ...

Molecular striptease explains Buckyballs in space

Dec 09, 2014

Scientists from Leiden University have shown in the laboratory how Buckyballs - molecular soccerballs - form in space. The experiments are special, as these are based on a new chemical concept - top-down, ...

Recommended for you

The simplest element: Turning hydrogen into 'graphene'

Dec 16, 2014

New work from Carnegie's Ivan Naumov and Russell Hemley delves into the chemistry underlying some surprising recent observations about hydrogen, and reveals remarkable parallels between hydrogen and graphene ...

Future batteries: Lithium-sulfur with a graphene wrapper

Dec 16, 2014

What do you get when you wrap a thin sheet of the "wonder material" graphene around a novel multifunctional sulfur electrode that combines an energy storage unit and electron/ion transfer networks? An extremely ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.