Issue Date: July 11, 2011
Hydrogen Peroxide Detected In Space
Hydrogen peroxide has been detected in interstellar space for the first time, a finding that could be used to refine models of astrochemical processes involving the compound, which is believed to play a key role in the chemistry of oxygen and water (Astron. Astrophys., DOI: 10.1051/0004 6361/ 201117170). Astronomers have proposed that H2O2 may form in interstellar molecular clouds via gas-phase reactions of H2 with HO2 or through reactions of two OH radicals. Another model proposes that H2O2 forms on the surface of dust grains via reaction of O2 with hydrogen atoms. The study led by Per Bergman of Chalmers University of Technology’s Onsala Space Observatory, in Sweden, is expected to help astronomers sort through the chemical models. By scanning the skies for submillimeter-wavelength radiation near Rho Ophiuchi, a star about 400 light-years from Earth, the team detected several spectroscopic signals that match H2O2’s molecular signature recorded in laboratory experiments. The team estimates that in that region of space H2O2 is 10 billion times less abundant than H2.
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