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"Though 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," said Jane Greaves, an astronomer at Cardiff University in Wales and lead author on a paper announcing this result in Nature Astronomy.
Until now, the most likely culprit for this microwave emission was thought to be a class of organic molecules known as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) -- carbon-based molecules found throughout interstellar space and recognized by the distinct, yet faint infrared (IR) light they emit. Nanodiamonds -- particularly hydrogenated nanodiamonds, those bristling with hydrogen-bearing molecules on their surfaces -- also naturally emit in the infrared portion of the spectrum, but at a different wavelength.
Series - Observations - National - Science - Foundation
A series of observations with the National Science Foundation's Green Bank Telescope (GBT) in West Virginia and the Australia Telescope Compact Array (ATCA) has -- for the first time -- homed in on three clear sources of AME light, the protoplanetary disks surrounding the young stars known as V892 Tau, HD 97048, and MWC 297. The GBT observed V892 Tau and the ATCA observed the other two systems.
"This is the first clear detection of anomalous microwave emission coming from protoplanetary disks," said David Frayer a coauthor on the paper and astronomer with the Green Bank Observatory.
Astronomers - Light - Systems - Signature - Nanodiamonds
The astronomers also note that the infrared light coming from these systems matches the unique signature of nanodiamonds. Other protoplanetary disks throughout the Milky Way, however, have the clear infrared signature of PAHs yet show no signs of the AME light.
This strongly suggests that PAHs are not the mysterious source of anomalous microwave radiation, as astronomers once thought. Rather, hydrogenated nanodiamonds, which form naturally within protoplanetary disks and are found in meteorites on Earth, are the most likely source of AME light...
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