These organic molecules (above) were first discovered in interstellar
space with the
National Radio Astronomy Observatory
140ft telescope in Green Bank, West Virginia.
Astronomers have used the NRAO 140 Foot diameter telescope to make
major advances in our understanding of interstellar chemistry. Many
organic molecules commonly found on Earth (and in the home!) were
discovered to exist in space using the 140 foot and other telescopes.
These molecules are found in clouds of gas in our galaxy. Some of the
clouds can be seen with the naked eye. The Orion nebula (below) is
the fuzzy patch hanging below Orion's belt of stars in the winter sky.
It is one location where many organic molecules are found in space.
These clouds of gas fill the center plane of our galaxy. The
image of our Galaxy's center (below) identifies these clouds
as bright white peaks in the radio emission map.
The key (left) shows the colors of the 4 atoms in all the molecules,
Hydrogen (white), Nitrogen (blue), Carbon (grey), and Oxygen (red).
Richard Cornelius , Professor of Chemistry at
Lebanon Valley College, for providing models of the molecules discovered.
provide excellent introductions.
The history of detection of molecules in space is documented by
F. J. Lovas, D. R. Johnson and Snyder in the
1979 Astrophysical Journal Supplements Volume 41, Page 451
(g-ziped postscript, 1.5 Mbytes).
The search for new molecules continues.
Lewis E. Snyder describes
more recent searches in the 1997 SPIE volume 3111, page 296
A reference list of molecule excitation frequencies is provided by
The NRAO 140ft telescope is shielded from radio interference by
West Virginias mountains
The National Radio Astronomy Observatory
is a facillity of the National Science Foundation
operated under cooperative agreement by Associated Universities, Inc.
firstname.lastname@example.org, last update: 99 August 10