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348-year-old Radioactive Molecule Detected in Space

The scientists observed that the molecules in the debris surrounding CK Vul is located approximately 2000 light-years from the Earth. Further, astronomers claim that this is the first molecule bearing an unstable radioisotope definitively detected outside of our solar system.

News18.com

Updated:August 1, 2018, 9:56 AM IST
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348-year-old Radioactive Molecule Detected in Space
Representative image.

New Delhi: Back in 1970, a bright and red 'new star', a radioactive molecule was formed as a result of a spectacular collision of two sun-like stars. Over 348 years later, an international team of astronomers studied the remains of this explosive stellar merger using the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) and the NOEMA (Northern Extended Millimeter Array) radio telescopes.

As reported by Scitechdaily, the 'new star', albeit, initially visible with the naked eye, is a burst of cosmic light that quickly faded and now requires powerful telescopes to see the remains of this stellar merger, which is a dim central star surrounded by a halo of glowing material flowing away from it.

The interstellar merger is known as CK Vulpeculae (CK Vul), as described by astronomers, a radioactive version of aluminum (26Al, an atom with 13 protons and 13 neutron) attached with atoms of fluorine, forming 26-aluminum monofluoride atoms of fluorine (26AIF) has been discovered.

The scientists observed that the molecules in the debris surrounding CK Vul is located approximately 2000 light-years from the Earth. Further, astronomers claim that this is the first molecule bearing an unstable radioisotope definitively detected outside of our solar system. The 26AIF decays to 26-magnesium (26Mg) unlike the usual nature of unstable isotopes that possess an excess of nuclear energy and eventually decay into a stable, less-radioactive form.

This is the first molecule bearing an unstable radioisotope definitively detected outside of our solar system. Unstable isotopes have an excess of nuclear energy and eventually decay into a stable, less-radioactive form. In this case, the 26-aluminum (26Al) decays to 26-magnesium (26Mg).

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| Edited by: Ahona Sengupta
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