Surprise as nickel vapor is very cold for metal sublimation in comet tails | Research

Surprise as nickel vapor is very cold for metal sublimation in comet tails |  Research

Polish astronomers have identified nickel vapor in the comet’s tail 2I / Borisov’s comet – a galactic comet that was seen crossing the solar system in 2019 – despite the very low temperature for nickel’s sublimation.1 Therefore, researchers suspect that nickel was released from the photosynthesis of compounds in comets. Independent observations by Belgian astronomers identify a similar gaseous nickel in cold solar system comets, suggesting an organometric appearance.2 Therefore, both documents may suggest shared organic chemistry between different planetary systems.

When Pyotr Kuzick And Micah Trohas UV spectroscopy was analyzed from the tail of 2I / Borisov at the University of Jacqueline in Krakow, which did not expect emission lines from metals as they were solid up to high temperatures. ‘It was too far from the sun, the coma was cold,’ explains Kusik. ‘But there were some strange unidentified lines … like spikes, more or less.’ Researchers have previously tested comets for clues, but Kusik drew blank until they encountered the spectrum Ikea-cheki The 1965 comet, which went very close to the sun, was visible in the daytime sky. ‘I noticed there were some lines that were very close to ours,’ says Kuzik. ‘I saw that our bright line was the same wavelength as the nickel in Ikea-Czech.’ There were other lines as well. Mathematical modeling convinced researchers that neutral nickel atoms actually evaporate at 200K.

Image showing how comets emit metal atoms

Researchers believe that a short-lived molecule – stable in deep space – may be photosynthetic when exposed to light, even at relatively cold temperatures. They did not propose a specific molecule, but researchers at the University of Liege in Belgium observed similar nickel vapor – as well as iron vapor – to glow from many comets in our own solar system. They suggested that many organic compounds, such as carbonyls and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, may have produced it by photosynthesis. If these also cause emissions from 2I / Boriso, it raises the intriguing possibility that organic chemistry is similar to ours in other planetary systems. ‘At least at the moment of the formation of comets the conditions must be identical to form any of the same molecules containing nickel,’ says Kuzik.

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Physicist Steven Bromley And planetary scientist Dennis Botwitz Researchers are inspired by the discovery of nickel.3 ‘Publishes about a comet [100kg] The same nickel content as water and a nickel coin per second, ‘says Bromley. Botwitz believes that the true potential of the mission can only be realized when the return mission of a comet reveals exactly which compounds are causing the luminosity. ‘We see objects in the gas phase, but we want information about that icy object,’ he says. ‘This is a somewhat laboratory astronomical question, of our interest: what reactions are possible, how can we simulate them, and how can we try and find out what they mean?’


1J Manfried, D. Hatchemakers and E. Jehin, Natural, 2021, 593, 372 (DOI: 10.1038 / s41586-021-03485-4)

2B Kusik and M Trohas, Natural, 2021, 593, 375 (DOI: 10.1038 / s41586-021-03435-0)

3D Botwits and SJ Bromley, Natural, 2021, 593, 349 (DOI: 10.1038 / d41586-021-01265-8)

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