Magnetic fields play an important role in the process of star birth. The figure shows the environment of the forming massive star and the luminous areas where it is possible to find radio signals from methanol. Bright spots - methanol masers. These are natural lasers propagating in dense environments where massive stars appear. Curved lines - magnetic field
Scientists from Chalmers University of Technology have solved an important mystery in astrochemistry - the measurement of magnetic fields in space using methanol.
Over the past 50 years, many molecules have been found in space. With the help of radio telescopes, researchers were able to investigate what happens in dark and dense clouds, where new stars and planets appear. The study of the signature of the molecules helped to measure the temperature, pressure and movement of the gas. However, the most difficult to measure amenable to magnetic fields.
Magnetic fields affect the stellar birth, but the details of the process have always remained controversial. Therefore, it was necessary to come up with capable magnetic field measurements. New calculations allowed to solve the problem with methanol.
A few decades ago, scientists proposed using CH3OH in measurements. In the dense gas surrounding many of the children's stars, methanol molecules stand out vividly as natural masers. These signals are extremely powerful at very specific frequencies. Maser signals come from areas where the magnetic field most clearly explains the stellar birth. A new understanding of the effect of methanol on magnetic fields is able to decipher the observed picture.
Early laboratory measurement attempts were hampered. Therefore, the researchers decided to create a theoretical model of how methanol will behave in magnetic fields, based on the principles of quantum mechanics. Soon, it was possible to find excellent agreement between theoretical calculations and experimental data.
But the task was still difficult. Theoretical chemists had to make new calculations and amend previous work. Methanol is a relatively simple molecule, so it seemed that the project would pass easily. But the need to calculate the exact properties slowed down the research considerably.
New results allow you to re-revise the magnetic fields of the universe. They also show what problems can be solved in the field of astrochemistry. For further study, you will have to use the most powerful radio telescopes of the new generation and invite the best specialists in chemistry and astrophysics.