With characteristics indicating the presence of specific atoms and molecules
Space news (April 01, 2016) – looking for the chemical fingerprints of atoms and molecules in the spectrum of a star 2,300 light-years from Earth –
The bright, young star near the center of the Hubble image above is IRAS 12196-6300, a star showing signs of infancy in the presence of smoky clouds of gas and dust seen floating above and below it. In this case, created as light from the star reflects off high concentrations of nearby dust leftover from its formation.
At just under ten million years old, IRAS 12196-6300 hasn’t started burning hydrogen at its core. The light from this star, when broken into a spectrum using a prism, breaks into hundreds, even thousands, of segments separated by dark gaps, or “lines”. Each dark gap is the result of a specific chemical element in the outer solar gasses absorbing light from the continuous, unbroken spectrum generated by the star.
The eventual strength of the dark gap (absorption line) – the amount of continuous solar spectrum absorbed – is directly related to the abundance of each specific chemical element in the outer solar gasses. By comparing characteristics of absorption lines and doing additional experiments astronomers are able to determine relative elemental abundances in the outer solar gasses of a star.
Learn more about the building of the biggest telescope in history, the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope, and plans to shoot “The Universe: The Motion Picture using this state-of-the-art eye-on-the-sky.
Learn more about the things astronomers have discovered by analyzing light from stars here.
Follow the space journey of NASA.