Nav: Home

Discovery in the sky with nanodiamonds

June 11, 2018

A faint and mysterious stream of microwaves emanating from star systems far out in the Milky Way could be caused by tiny diamonds, new research has suggested.

For decades scientists have been able to measure this 'glow' of microwave light, dubbed the anomalous microwave emission (AME), coming from a number of regions in the night sky, but have yet to identify its exact source.

In a new study led by researchers at Cardiff University and published today in the journal Nature Astronomy, an international team has shown that it is likely the microwaves are coming from tiny crystals of carbon, otherwise known as nanodiamonds, inside of dust and gas that surrounds newly formed stars.

This collection of dust and gas, known as a protoplanetary disk, is where planets begin to form and contains a whole host of organic molecules. The extremely hot and energized conditions within these disks are ideal for nanodiamonds to form.

Indeed, the nanodiamonds within protoplanetary disks, which are hundreds of thousands of times smaller than a grain of sand, are often found in meteorites on Earth.

"We knew that some type of particle was responsible for the microwave light, but its precise source has been a puzzle since it was first detected nearly 20 years ago," said lead author of the study Dr Jane Greaves from Cardiff University's School of Physics and Astronomy.

"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."

To arrive at their results the team honed in on three young stars that were emitting AME light using the Robert C. Byrd Green Bank Telescopes in West Virginia and the Australia Telescope Compact Array.

By studying the infrared light that was coming from the protoplanetary disks surrounding the stars, the team were able to match this with the unique signature that is naturally given off by nanodiamonds.

The team noted that the unique signal came from hydrogenated nanodiamonds, in which the crystalline carbon structure is surrounded by hydrogen-bearing molecules on its surface.

"This is a cool and unexpected resolution of the puzzle of anomalous microwaves radiation," Dr Greaves continued. "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."
-end-
Notes to editors

1. For further information contact:
Michael Bishop
Communications & Marketing
Cardiff University
Tel: 02920 874499 / 07713 325300
Email: BishopM1@cardiff.ac.uk

2. Cardiff University is recognised in independent government assessments as one of Britain's leading teaching and research universities and is a member of the Russell Group of the UK's most research intensive universities. The 2014 Research Excellence Framework ranked the University 5th in the UK for research excellence. Among its academic staff are two Nobel Laureates, including the winner of the 2007 Nobel Prize for Medicine, Professor Sir Martin Evans. Founded by Royal Charter in 1883, today the University combines impressive modern facilities and a dynamic approach to teaching and research. The University's breadth of expertise encompasses: the College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences; the College of Biomedical and Life Sciences; and the College of Physical Sciences and Engineering, along with a longstanding commitment to lifelong learning. Cardiff's flagship Research Institutes are offering radical new approaches to pressing global problems. http://www.cardiff.ac.uk

Cardiff University

Related Astronomy Articles:

An application of astronomy to save endangered species
The world's first project that combines drone technology with astrophysics to monitor the distribution and density of animal populations to help the conservation of endangered species.
The past, present & future of gravitational-wave astronomy, with Kip Thorne & Rainer Weiss
In an interview published online this week, the winners of the 2016 Kavli Prize in Astrophysics discuss their 40-year effort to detect gravitational waves, the elusive ripples in the fabric of space-time that Albert Einstein so boldly predicted.
Astronomy shown to be set in standing stone
University of Adelaide research has for the first time statistically proven that the earliest standing stone monuments of Britain, the great circles, were constructed specifically in line with the movements of the Sun and Moon, 5000 years ago.
RIT awarded a total of $1 million from NSF for gravitational-wave astronomy
RIT won more than $1 million in federal funding to study the dynamics of extreme black holes and to develop the Einstein Toolkit, making Einstein's equations user-friendly for scientists exploring the new field of gravitational wave astronomy.
Largest crowdsource astronomy network helps confirm discovery of 'Tatooine' planet
Lehigh University astronomer assistant professor of physics Joshua Pepper is using crowdsourcing to gather observations worldwide.
ESO signs largest ever ground-based astronomy contract for E-ELT dome and structure
At a ceremony in Garching bei München, Germany, ESO signed the contract with the ACe Consortium, consisting of Astaldi, Cimolai and the nominated sub-contractor EIE Group, for the construction of the dome and telescope structure of the European Extremely Large Telescope (E-ELT).
John Beckman: 'Astronomy is a science that makes us humble'
The University of La Laguna celebrated the solemn act of investment as Doctor Honoris Causa of the astrophysicist John Beckman, Emeritus Research Professor of the Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas and of the Astrophysics Department of the University of La Laguna, as well as researcher at the Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias.
Launch of Astrosat first Indian astronomy satellite
The first Indian astronomy satellite Astrosat, was launched on Sept.
IAU signs agreements for 5 new coordinating offices of astronomy for development
The International Astronomical Union's (IAU) Office of Astronomy for Development has established new coordinating offices in Armenia, Colombia, Jordan, Nigeria and Portugal.
New era of astronomy as gravitational wave hunt begins
Australian scientists are in the hunt for the last missing piece of Einstein's General Theory of Relativity, gravitational waves, as the Advanced LIGO Project in the United States comes online.

Related Astronomy Reading:

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Bias And Perception
How does bias distort our thinking, our listening, our beliefs... and even our search results? How can we fight it? This hour, TED speakers explore ideas about the unconscious biases that shape us. Guests include writer and broadcaster Yassmin Abdel-Magied, climatologist J. Marshall Shepherd, journalist Andreas Ekström, and experimental psychologist Tony Salvador.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#514 Arctic Energy (Rebroadcast)
This week we're looking at how alternative energy works in the arctic. We speak to Louie Azzolini and Linda Todd from the Arctic Energy Alliance, a non-profit helping communities reduce their energy usage and transition to more affordable and sustainable forms of energy. And the lessons they're learning along the way can help those of us further south.