The Identification of Complex Organic Molecules in the Interstellar Medium: Using Lasers and Matrix Isolation Spectroscopy to Simulate the Interstellar EnvironmentThe Astrochemistry Group at NASA Ames Research Center is interested in the identification of large organic molecules in the interstellar medium Many smaller organic species (e.g. hydrocarbons, alcohols, etc.) have been previously identified by their radiofrequency signature due to molecular rotations. However, this becomes increasingly difficult to observe as the size of the molecule increases. Our group in interested in the identification of the carriers of the Diffuse Interstellar Bands (absorption features observed throughout the visible and near-infrared in the spectra of stars, due to species in the interstellar medium). Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs) and related molecules are thought to be good candidates for these carriers. Laboratory experiments am performed at Ames to simulate the interstellar environment, and to compare spectra obtained from molecules in the laboratory to those derived astronomically. We are also interested in PAHs with respect to their possible connection to the UIR (Unidentified infrared) and ERE (Extended Red Emission) bands - emission features found to emanate from particular regions of our galaxy (e.g. Orion nebula, Red Rectangle, etc.). An old, "tried and proven spectroscopic technique, matrix isolation spectroscopy creates molecular conditions ideal for performing laboratory astrophysics.
Stone, Bradley M. (San Jose State Univ. CA United States)