Research Highlight

Napthalene, space & life

doi:10.1038/nindia.2010.38 Published online 30 March 2010

Researchers have furnished the first theoretical proof that naphthalene is the carrier of DIBs or diffused intrastellar bands — the absorption features in the spectra of astronomical objects in our galaxy. Observing DIB carrier molecules in extragalactic environments could shed light on the chemical pathways forming large organic molecules.

Napthalene is a polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (PAH) born in interstellar dust cloud.

The find supports the observational claim of finding naphthalene ion in star formation region in the constellation Perseus. Perseus is in the direction of Cernis 52 lying 700 light years away from the earth.

The researchers selected the PAHs naphthalene and anthracene radical cation and studied six of their low-lying electronic states exposed to strong UV radiations. The study assigned three new DIBs to the electronic transitions in naphthalene.

"The building blocks of life — amino acids — are formed from naphthalene, ammonia, water and ice in the presence of UV radiation," says lead researcher Susanta Mahapatra from the School of Chemistry & ACRHEM, University of Hyderabad.

The naphthalene radical cation might have played a key role in interstellar chemical and biological reactions leading to the origin of life, he says.


  1. Reddy, S. V. et al. First Principles Quantum Dynamical Investigation Provides Evidence for the Role of Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbon Radical Cations in Interstellar Physics. Phys. Rev. Lett. 104, 111102 (2010) | Article | ADS