A schematic of the typical structure of organic matter in the Universe containing a mixture of ring-like (aromatic) and chain-like (aliphatic) chemical sites and containing about 100 carbon atoms
Professor Sun Kwok (left) and Dr Zhang Yong of The University of Hong Kong
A spectrum from the Infrared Space Observatory superimposed on an image of the Orion Nebula where the complex organics are found
Researchers at the University of Hong Kong (HKU) claim to have solved the mystery of “Unidentified Infrared Emission features” that have been detected in stars, interstellar space, and galaxies. For over two decades, the most commonly accepted theory regarding this phenomenon was that these signatures come from polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (PAH) molecules - simple organic molecules made of carbon and hydrogen atoms. Now HKU researchers say the substances generating these signatures are actually complex organic compounds that are made naturally by stars and ejected into interstellar space.
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