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Astronomers have discovered a new molecule in space.  And it's very special

Astronomers have discovered a new molecule in space. And it's very special

American scientists have a new molecule explore In space, it is called 2-methoxyethanol. It was a major achievement as they obtained data from Lille, France and received help from Copenhagen and Florida.

“Our team is trying to understand the molecules found in the regions of space where stars and solar systems eventually form,” explains researcher Zachary Freed from the famous institute. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Outside. “We're trying to figure out how chemistry evolves during the process of star and planet formation. We do this by looking at the spin spectra of molecules, the unique patterns of light they emit as they roll past each other in space.

“These patterns are the fingerprints or barcodes of molecules. To discover new molecules, we first have to have an idea of ​​the molecule we want to look for, then we can record its spectrum in a laboratory on Earth and then we will eventually search for that spectrum in space using telescopes.” He continued. .

Complex task
Recently, researchers have also begun to use machine learning to choose the best molecules to search for. Last year, this AI model suggested targeting 2-methoxyethanol. “There are a number of 'methoxy' molecules in space, such as dimethyl ether, methoxymethanol, diethyl methyl ether, and methyl formate, but 2-methoxyethanol will be the largest and most complex molecule we have ever seen,” he said.

But of course it is not as simple as the computer model makes it out to be. The researchers first had to measure and analyze the rotation spectrum of the molecule on Earth. To do this, they combined experiments from the University of Lille, New College of Florida, and MIT's McGuire Laboratory itself. This allowed them to measure the spectrum over a wide range of frequencies, from microwaves to submillimeter wavelengths, between 8 and 500 gigahertz.

They can use the data generated by these measurements to really deal with Atacama Large Millimeter/Submillimeter Array (ALMA) to search for the molecule in two separate star-forming regions: NGC 6334I and IRAS 16293-2422B. These telescope observations then had to be examined by three research groups.

“We eventually saw 25 lines of 2-methoxyethanol rotation that matched the molecular signal we observed in NGC 63341 — the matching barcode — leading to the clear detection of methoxyethanol in this source,” Fried says. “This allowed us to infer the physical parameters of the molecule, such as its extent of presence and excitation temperature.”

Excitation temperature
Excitation is a complex word that means the temporary movement of part of an atom from one shell to another, which is higher on the energy spectrum within the same atom.

Such discoveries of new molecules help researchers better understand the evolution of molecular complexity during the process of star formation in space. 2-Methoxyethanol, which consists of thirteen atoms, is very large by stellar standards. As of 2021, only six molecules larger than thirteen atoms have been discovered outside our solar system and all of them were ring-shaped structures, while the newly discovered sample is more elongated.

“Continued observations of macromolecules and subsequent inferences about their existence will allow us to increase our knowledge of how efficiently macromolecules form and the specific interactions they produce,” he said.

“Since we found this molecule in NGC 6334I but not in IRAS 16293-2422B, we have a unique opportunity to look at how the different physical conditions of these two sources affect the resulting chemistry.”

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The Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) in Chile consists of 66 radio dishes ranging from 7 to 12 meters in diameter. They are observed at millimeter and sub-millimeter wavelengths. It is the largest astronomical project in the world and is located in the Atacama Desert in northern Chile, at an altitude of more than 5 kilometers above sea level.