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Response to Redfairen (Original post)

Thu Feb 28, 2013, 08:46 PM

4. This work has been reported before: Student team discovers new interstellar molecule ...

From PHYS.ORG, August 1, 2012, Student team discovers new interstellar molecule during summer program

Left to Right: Kennedy Johnson, Johnson C. Smith University; Nicole Sciortino, St. Augustine's College; Jolie Nyiramahirwe, Piedmont Virginia Community College; and David Vasquez, Virginia Tech

Recently, a team of undergraduate students from four universities visiting the University of Virginia to take part in a special eight-week summer research program for minority students made one of those rare discoveries. It's called cyanomethanimine, and is considered a precursor molecule for RNA, a key building block for the development of life on this planet and possibly elsewhere in the universe.

The students conducted experiments in the astrochemistry lab of chemist Brooks Pate of U.Va.'s College of Arts & Sciences and used data from the National Radio Astronomy Observatory's Green Bank Telescope in Green Bank, W.Va., to verify their finding.

"This is a pretty special discovery and proves that early-career students can do remarkable research," said Pate, one of a team of program mentors that included U.Va. astronomy professor Ed Murphy and National Radio Astronomy Observatory scientist Anthony Remijan.


The team applied for, and was granted, additional telescope time from NRAO at Green Bank to conduct further experiments using additional frequencies. "Not many people get to go to Green Bank," noted Kennedy, "but we did!"

What's really cool is that these four undergraduate women and men get their first scientific publication in The Astrophysical Journal Letters:

Detection of E-cyanomethanimine towards Sagittarius B2(N) in the Green Bank Telescope PRIMOS Survey

Daniel P. Zaleski, Nathan A. Seifert, Amanda L. Steber, Matt T. Muckle, Ryan A. Loomis, Joanna F. Corby, Oscar Martinez, Jr., Kyle N. Crabtree, Philip R. Jewell, Jan M. Hollis, Frank J. Lovas, David Vasquez, Jolie Nyiramahirwe, Nicole Sciortino, Kennedy Johnson, Michael C. McCarthy, Anthony J. Remijan, Brooks H. Pate
(Submitted on 5 Feb 2013)

The detection E-cyanomethanimine (E-HNCHCN) towards Sagittarius B2(N) is made by comparing the publicly available Green Bank Telescope (GBT) PRIMOS survey spectra (Hollis et al.) to laboratory rotational spectra from a reaction product screening experiment. The experiment uses broadband molecular rotational spectroscopy to monitor the reaction products produced in an electric discharge source using a gas mixture of NH3 and CH3CN. Several transition frequency coincidences between the reaction product screening spectra and previously unassigned interstellar rotational transitions in the PRIMOS survey have been assigned to E cyanomethanimine. A total of 8 molecular rotational transitions of this molecule between 9 and 50 GHz are observed with the GBT. E-cyanomethanimine, often called the HCN dimer, is an important molecule in prebiotic chemistry because it is a chemical intermediate in proposed synthetic routes of adenine, one of the two purine nucleobases found in DNA and RNA. New analyses of the rotational spectra of both E-cyanomethanimine and Z-cyanomethanimine that incorporate previous mm-wave measurements are also reported.

Hooray for upcoming scientists!!

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