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Space Molecules

December 19, 2006

Space is not empty. In fact, there are some pretty surprising molecules floating around up there.


Cooking up planets and stars. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Scientists have found a new ingredient in the increasingly strange interstellar soup. It’s a negatively charged molecule—meaning it’s held onto an extra electron despite being assaulted by radiation—and it’s probably pretty common. Astrophysicist Patrick Thaddeus of the Harvard-Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory says it’s the first of its kind found in the molecular clouds that percolate in space.

PATRICK THADDEUS (Harvard-Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory):
Essentially all star formation occurs in molecular clouds. These are the factories out of which stars are being made continuously in a galaxy like ours and presumably over the whole face of the universe.

So finding this molecule and others like it in the interstellar mix could help scientists learn more about the ingredients that went into cooking up our Sun, the Earth, and ultimately, us. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.