High-Resolution Spectroscopy Reveals The Building Blocks Of Galaxies

Imagine a lab where cutting-edge optics are used to crack the code of interstellar chemistry. This is exactly what’s happening at the Weichman Lab, where researchers use specialized high-resolution spectroscopy techniques to identify the building blocks of our universe.

Funded by a new NSF grant, the lab is building a powerful tool to measure the light absorption of fullerenes, complex carbon cage molecules found in space. Understanding these molecules is crucial for astrochemistry, as they are considered key players in star and planet formation.

The show’s star is a custom-built cavity-enhanced frequency comb spectrometer device. This utilizes a special laser, the “frequency comb,” that emits a vast array of light frequencies. Researchers can identify their presence and properties by analyzing how these frequencies interact with fullerenes.

But space throws a curveball – interstellar environments are cold and sparsely populated with molecules. The lab uses a cryo chamber to mimic these conditions to overcome this challenge, allowing for clearer spectroscopic analysis.

This research goes beyond fullerenes. The team aims to create a comprehensive spectral database to compare with data from space telescopes. This will help decipher numerous unidentified features observed in the cosmos, potentially revealing entirely new classes of space molecules.

“These are not simple systems to study,” says Dominik Charczun, a postdoctoral researcher. “That’s why providing high-quality reference data is crucial.” With their groundbreaking high-resolution spectroscopy techniques, the Weichman Lab is poised to unlock the secrets hidden within fullerenes and other space molecules, offering a clearer picture of the universe’s chemical composition.

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