Stars which are running out of nuclear fuel blast huge amounts of
material into space. This material is rich with the heavier elements
which have been produced by the star during its burning phases.
By studying the infrared spectra of this material which is being
ejected into space, we can find out about the elements that
a star produces and about the molecules that are formed in the
environments around old stars.
Recent spectral data from
ISO has shown that complex
organic molecules can form rapidly (over a few thousand years) in
the environments around old stars.
These elements and molecules will likely find their way
into new stars and planets as they form from molecular clouds.
To the left is an infrared spectra showing the existence of crystalline
silicates - the most common mineral on Earth - around old stars.
Compare the spectra of the star to the spectra of a comet in our own
solar system. Many of the emission features are the same. The
continuum curve is lower for the comet because it has a lower
temperature than the star does. Many of the molecules formed around
old stars make it into stellar systems - our own solar system contains
material created in the environments around stars extinguished before
our solar system formed.
Stars eject their material into space in a variety of ways.
Most stars will shed their outer atmospheres in layers which we see as
planetary nebulae or eject material via high velocity winds.
Large stars will explode, creating spectacular supernova remnants.
To the right is the infrared spectra of the planetary nebula NGC 6543
taken by the ISO satellite.
It clearly shows the fingerprints of sulphur, neon, and argon.
Infrared Spectroscopy Index |
What is Spectroscopy? |
Infrared Spectroscopy |
Solar System |
Interstellar Space |
Star Forming Regions |
Older Stars |
Search For Life |
Our Galaxy |
Other Galaxies |