Cosmic Diamonds Are Causing Mysterious Glow Across The Milky Way

Posted: Jun 17 2018, 3:45pm CDT | by , Updated: Jun 17 2018, 3:49pm CDT, in News | Latest Science News

 
Cosmic Diamonds are Causing Mysterious Glow Across the Milky Way
Nanodiamonds in the sky. Credit: S. Dagnello, NRAO/AUI/NSF

Astronomers solve the mystery of a peculiar type of microwave light emanating from a number of regions in our galaxy

Astronomers have detected tiny particles of diamonds around three star systems in Milky Way. These nanodiamonds are hundreds of thousands of times smaller than a sand grain and are responsible for mysterious cosmic microwave glow across our galaxy.

The cosmic glow, known as anomalous microwave emission (AME), has been around for years. The glow is visible in the night sky but its exact source remained a mystery.

“We know that some type of particle is responsible for this microwave light, its precise source has been a puzzle since it was first detected nearly 20 years ago.” Lead author of the study Jane Greaves from Cardiff University in Wales said.

Scientists initially thought that the mysterious light comes from a class of organic molecules called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. These carbon-based molecules are found throughout interstellar space and characterized by the distinct, yet faint infrared light. Tiny crystals of carbon, otherwise known as nanodiamonds, also naturally emit infrared light but at a different wavelength. Nanodiamonds exist in protoplanetary disks, a collection of gas and dust around newly formed stars. Planets are created from these disks and they also harbor conditions ideal for nanodiamonds to form.

"In a Sherlock Holmes-like method of eliminating all other causes, we can confidently say the best and likely only candidate capable of producing this microwaves glow is the presences of nanodiamonds around these newly formed stars.” Greaves said.

To confirm their theory, researchers turned to Green Bank Telescope (GBT) in West Virginia and the Australia Telescope Compact Array (ATCA) and studied AME three clear sources of AME light. They come from the protoplanetary disks around three young stars known as V892 Tau, HD 97048 and MWC 297. Researchers found that the infrared light coming from these star systems matches the unique signature of nanodiamonds. Based on observations, astronomers estimate that up to 1-2 percent of the total carbon in these protoplanetary disks have been used to form nanodiamonds.

"This is a cool and unexpected resolution to the puzzle of anomalous microwave radiation," said Greaves. "It's even more interesting that it was obtained by looking at protoplanetary disks, shedding light on the chemical features of early solar systems, including our own."

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