News of the WeekAstronomy

Fine Details Point to Space Hydrocarbons

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Science  11 Feb 2000:
Vol. 287, Issue 5455, pp. 946
DOI: 10.1126/science.287.5455.946a

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For nearly 2 decades, astronomers have argued about whether polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, or PAHs, which result from the burning of hydrocarbons at high temperatures, are as ubiquitous in space as they are here at home. Now astronomers picking over data obtained by Europe's Infrared Space Observatory, who met in Madrid last week, believe they have evidence that clinches the case for PAHs in space. But critics say the findings could be explained by solid particles rather than PAHs; to finally settle the matter, chemists will have to duplicate the results in the lab.