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Found in space: Complex carbon-based molecules

Photo credit: NSF/Glen Langston

Discovery may offer clues to carbon's role in planet and star formation

Much of the carbon in space is believed to exist in the form of large molecules called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons or PAHs. Since the 1980s, evidence has indicated that these molecules are abundant in space, but they have not been directly observed. Now, a team of U.S. National Science Foundation-funded researchers led by Massachusetts Institute of Technology scientist Brett McGuire has identified two distinctive PAHs in a patch of space called the Taurus Molecular Cloud.

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