Home Science USask researcher and Nobel laureate Herzberg predicted source of comet’s green hue in 1939 – News

USask researcher and Nobel laureate Herzberg predicted source of comet’s green hue in 1939 – News

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Comet C 2022 E3 (ZTF) was discovered in early March this year by astronomers at the Zwicky Transient Facility using a wide-field survey camera. (Photo: Dan Bartlett/NASA)

“It’s important to pay attention to celestial events like this because they’re often how we learn about our world,” says an astronomy expert and USask’s College of said Daryl Janzen, PhD, instructor in the Arts’ Department of Physics and Engineering Physics. and science. “Science itself was essentially invented because people noticed and wanted to explain the paths that planets follow as they wander among the stars.”

Janzen also Usasuk ObservatoryAn astronomical observation party held on the 1st and 3rd Saturdays of every month.

Like many other comets, Comet 2022 E3 (ZTF) has a distinctive green color from its bright head as it arcs through the sky. Thanks in part to Herzberg, this green exact cause puzzle has been solved in recent years.

hertzberg, Awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1971, the groundbreaking researcher who did much of the basic research at USask from 1935 to 1945 spent his career studying the structure and geometry of molecules. spectroscopy, The study of the absorption and emission of light and radiation by matter. His research led to a groundbreaking understanding of how molecules and atoms work and interact, forming the basis of many advances in astronomy, health, chemistry and physics.

Herzberg already started working on the diatomic molecule C2. 1937 when he was at USask. C2 is formed because carbon (C) is a relatively unstable element and tries to combine with a second carbon molecule to stabilize it. His research ultimately led to an analysis of how C2 is interstellar. The predictions Herzberg made in analyzing spectroscopy of C2 laid the foundation for our current understanding of why color appears in a comet’s coma (the cloud of dust and gas that surrounds the comet’s head).

according to the work Published in 1939 astrophysics journal, Herzberg speculated that the comet’s green hue may be due to sunlight causing C2 to reach high levels of vibration, breaking the bond between the two molecules and separating them. It was thought that when these molecules were torn apart, they would release energy and emit a green color.

This prediction remained unconfirmed for nearly a century due to the difficulty of testing such scenarios. In December 2021, the University of New South Wales team will the research paper Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences First test of Hertzberg’s theory. Through laboratory experiments, the research team showed that his C2 molecule dissociated at high vibrational levels, emitting green light from the comet’s coma. This discovery provided scientific evidence for what Hertzberg suspected in his 1939.

“The coma of a comet is usually green, and as Herzberg predicted, this color is due to the photodissociation of diatomic carbon, an abundant molecule in comets,” said Janzen. “This recent study confirms that C2 has a lifetime of about two days before sunlight breaks up the molecule and releases green photons. The green light comes from the coma, not the comet’s tail.” It’s this short timeframe, not just the color, that explains why it comes from.”

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