Instrumentation Used to Study Molecules Found In Space

The lab the McMahon group works in has specially designed equipment that can mimic the environment of outer space while allowing the molecules of interest to be studied by different methods. When a molecule is studied with an instrument it gives a spectrum that has information characteristic to that molecule. A good analogy would be a human being who is fingerprinted. That fingerprint is characteristic of that person, who can be identified by it. Because molecules are as different as people, they can be identified in a similar manner, using spectra instead of fingerprints. Once Professor McMahon and his students have the "fingerprint" of the molecule, they compare their data to the data astronomers collect.

Picture of an Instrument Used to Study Space Molecules

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