NASA scientists created a unique collection of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (PAH) spectra to interpret mysterious emission from space.
|Above image combines visible-infrared Spitzer Space Telescope images of the galaxy Messier-82. The red streaming away from the galaxy into intergalactic space traces the infrared emission from PAHs.|
Because PAHs are a major product of combustion, remain in the environment, and are carcinogenic, the value of this PAH spectral collection extends far beyond NASA and astronomical applications.
For years, scientists have been studying a mysterious infrared glow from the Milky Way and other galaxies, radiating from dusty regions in deep space.
By duplicating the harsh conditions of space in their laboratories and computers, scientists have identified the mystifying infrared emiters as PAHs. PAHs are flat, chicken-wire shaped, nano-sized molecules that are very common on Earth.
''PAHs in space are probably produced by carbon-rich, giant stars.
A similar process produces soots here on Earth,'' said Louis Allamandola, an astrochemistry researcher at NASA's Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif.