Airdate: May 20, 2008
Scientist: Lucy Ziurys
Science Diary: Chemistry - The Search
What do you find when you cross an astrochemist, a telescope and 27 computers? Intragalactic molecules!
Science Diary: Chemistry of Space - The Search
music; ambience: warning buzzer
[Beep] “We have a sophisticated set of electronics, and the sounds you are hearing are warning signals [beep], telling us that we're not looking, observing at the frequency we're supposed to.” [beeps and tones continue]
Welcome to Pulse of the Planet’s Science Diaries, a glimpse of the world of science from the inside. Lucy Ziurys is an Astrochemist at the University of Arizona. She’s at the Arizona Radio Observatory, trying to find molecules deep in space, from a source that is more than halfway across our galaxy. Lucy is looking for radio signals at a particular frequency a sort of fingerprint for chemical compositions. But honing into something so far away can be tricky.
[Beeps and tones underneath] “The telescope recognizes that warning signal and halts the observations until we've corrected the frequency and that signal goes away, that warning signal. And now the signal is gone and we're back on source and collecting data.
And usually we track a source for maybe anywhere from five to ten hours per day.”
“To run this whole system, we use twenty-seven different computers. Some computers actually move the telescope and track the source, other computers are involved with making sure we're at the right frequency, and the rest of the computers are for the data reduction. Well, telescopes like this, radio telescopes, are really telling us about the chemical composition of our galaxy and external galaxies. And what one has to realize is that the sort of objects we're looking in, which are these giant molecular clouds, eventually collapse to form solar systems and planets.”
The molecules Lucy Ziurys and her team are looking for may be the primordial matter that created our solar system and life here on earth.
Please visit our website, pulseplanet.com. Pulse of the Planet’s Science Diaries are made possible by the National Science Foundation. I’m Jim Metzner.