We all know that universe is filled with many faintly glowing infrared lights. For many years, astronomers have been trying to figure out the reason behind this glow. Finally, they have succeeded in finding out the reason behind this strange cosmic radiation.
These radiations are emitted by an organic molecule called benzonitrile. Benzonitrile belongs to a class of molecules known as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. Well, aromatic might sound odd to common people at first but it is used in organic chemistry to describe the molecules' ring-like shape. Till now, Scientists have discovered hundreds of kinds of PAH molecules on Earth but their existence in space was unknown.
Scientists have managed to crack this long-prevailing mystery based on the data collected from the Green Bank Telescope in West Virginia. The officials at National Radio Astronomy Observatory, National Radio Astronomy Observatory said,” the convincing radio fingerprints of a close cousin and chemical precursor to PAHs, the molecule benzonitrile”.
But, there is a twist in the tale. Scientists might have concluded that the presence of benzonitrile as the reason behind the glow, but they discovered it using a telescope that measures radio waves, which make up a different portion of the electromagnetic spectrum.
Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons are abundant on Earth and can be found in foods, medications, cigarette smoke and some air pollutants. But, for the first time, it was observed in space. PAHs are large molecules, they're just tiny grains of dust from a cosmic perspective. So, how do scientists figure out the presence of benzonitrile? The reason behind this lies in the structure of the organic material. Benzonitriles has a unique structure which enabled the scientists to tease out its distinctive radio signature, which is the 'gold standard' when confirming the presence of molecules in space.
Another thing which surprised the scientists is that the benzonitrile was detected in a cold molecular cloud. The benzonitrile that the researchers detected was also four times more abundant than the amount they calculated using chemical models.
Image Source: UVA Today