Image: An illustration of the structure of a greasy carbon molecule, set against an image of the galactic centre, where this material has been detected. Carbon is represented as grey spheres and hydrogen as white spheres. Credit: D. Young (2011), The Gala
Original Published Date: 
Thursday, June 28, 2018

Full article issued by The University of New South Wales.

Astronomers from the ARC Centre of Excellence in Exciton Science based at The University of New South Wales, and Ege University in Turkey, have manufactured material with the same properties as interstellar dust, and used their results to estimate the amount of ‘space grease’ found in the Milky Way galaxy. 

Organic matter of different kinds contains carbon, an element considered essential for life. However, there has been an uncertainty over its abundance, and only half the carbon expected is found between the stars in its pure form. By replicating in the laboratory the conditions by which organic molecules are synthesised in the outflows of carbon rich stars, the researchers have found that there are about 100 greasy carbon atoms for every million hydrogen atoms. This accounts for between a quarter and a half of the available carbon in the Milky Way.

Image: An illustration of the structure of a greasy carbon molecule, set against an image of the galactic centre, where this material has been detected. Carbon is represented as grey spheres and hydrogen as white spheres. Credit: D. Young (2011), The Galactic Center. FlickrCreativeCommons.