Enigmatic cosmic glow is caused by diamond dust glamming star

An artistic illustration of nanodiamonds (tiny nano-diamonds) around a young star in our Galaxy.

(S. Dagnello, NRAO/AUI/NSF)

Diamond dust is responsible for a mysterious glow coming from certain regions of the milky way Galaxy, a new study reports.

Astronomers have long known that some kind of very small, fast rotating particles to throw out this weak light, which is known as anomalous microwave emission (AME). But they could not identify the exact culprit — until now.

In the new study, researchers used the Green Bank Telescope in West Virginia, and the Australia Telescope Compact Array to search for AME light in 14 newborn star systems in the entire Galaxy. She saw the emissions in three of these systems, from the planet-forming disks of dust and gas around the star. [Stunning Photos of Our milky way Galaxy (Gallery)]

“This is the first clear detection of anomalous microwave emission from protoplanetary disks,” study co-author David Frayer, an astronomer with the Green Bank Observatory, said in a statement.

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The study team also discovered the unique infrared light signatures of nanodiamonds — carbon crystals are much smaller than a grain of sand in these three systems, and nowhere else.

“In fact, this [signatures] are so rare, there is no other young stars have confirmed, infrared print,” study lead author Jane Greaves, an astronomer at the University of Cardiff in Wales, said in the same statement.

The researchers do not think that this is a coincidence.

“In a Sherlock Holmes-like method of eliminating all other causes, we can safely say that the best candidate is the microwave glow is the presence of nanodiamonds around this newly formed stars,” Greaves said.

One to 2 percent of the total amount of carbon in the protoplanetary disks is included in nanodiamonds, according to the team’s estimates.

Another important AME-source candidate, a family of organic molecules known as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (Pahs), means not under control, the researchers said. The infrared signature of Pahs has been identified in several young star systems that the lack of a AME glow, they noted.

The new results may help astronomers have a better understanding of the universe, the beginning of the day, study team members said. Scientists think that the universe expanded far faster than the speed of light shortly after the Big Bang, in a short period of “cosmic inflation.” If this does indeed happen, then left a potentially detectable imprint — an odd polarization of the cosmic microwave background, the ancient light left from the Big Bang.

Astronomers have been hunting hard for this imprint but have yet to find. (A research team thought it had made the epic discovery of a few years ago, but that turned out to be a false alarm.)

The new study provides good news for those who study polarization of the cosmic microwave background, because the signal of the turning of nanodiamonds would be weakly polarized at its best,” says co-author Brian Mason, an astronomer at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory in Charlottesville, Virginia.

“This means that astronomers can now better models of the foreground microwave light of our galaxy, which must be removed for the study of the distant afterglow of the big Bang,” Mason added.

The new study was published today (11 June) in the journal Nature Astronomy.

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