Grease in Space

Our researchers, Prof Tim Schmidt and his team from UNSW, have collaborated with Ege University researchers to determine the abundance of fat in space, by determining the proportion of grease-like, or aliphatic, molecules in interstellar dust.

First, the researchers had to synthesise interstellar dust in the laboratory. By reproducing conditions in the outflows of carbon stars, they were able to manufacture materials with the same properties as interstellar dust.

Next, they used laboratory spectroscopy to measure the number of grease-like molecules in the produced dust, finding that there’s 12 billion trillion trillion tonnes of fat in our galaxy alone, or enough for 40 trillion trillion trillion packs of butter.

Read more at the Royal Astronmical Society News and the full article at “Aliphatic Hydrocarbon Content of Interstellar Dust”, B. Günay, T. W. Schmidt, M. G. Burton, M. Afşar, O. Krechkivska, K. Nauta, S. H. Kable and A. Rawal, Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, Oxford University Press, in press.