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Scientists finally solve the mystery of why comets glow green

Posted: December 27th, 2021, 11:33 am
by fred8615
A team of chemists just solved the mystery of why comets’ heads–but not their tails–glow green, which had puzzled researchers for decades. Studying an elusive molecule, which only fleetingly exists on Earth, was the key.

Comets are speeding chunks of ice and dust left over from the formation of the solar system, which occasionally venture from the system’s cold outer reaches to pass by Earth. Back in the 1930s, Gerhard Herzberg, who later won the Nobel prize for his research on free radicals and other molecules, guessed that the process behind the green comet glow might involve a molecule made from two carbon atoms bonded together, called dicarbon. A new study, published in the journal the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, put Herzberg’s theory to the test.

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