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The synthesis of organic and inorganic compounds in evolved stars

Abstract

Recent isotopic analysis of meteorites and interplanetary dust has identified solid-state materials of pre-solar origin. We can now trace the origin of these inorganic grains to the circumstellar envelopes of evolved stars. Moreover, organic (aromatic and aliphatic) compounds have been detected in proto-planetary nebulae and planetary nebulae, which are the descendants of carbon stars. This implies that molecular synthesis is actively happening in the circumstellar environment on timescales as short as several hundred years. The detection of stellar grains in the Solar System suggests that they can survive their journey through the interstellar medium and that they are a major contributor of interstellar grains.

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Figure 1: Invisible stars.
Figure 2: The unidentified emission feature at 21 µm.
Figure 3: Stretching and bending modes of aromatic compounds.
Figure 4: Broad emission features in PPNe.
Figure 5: A model of carbonaceous interstellar dust consisting of various aromatic and aliphatic groups (after ref.

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Kwok, S. The synthesis of organic and inorganic compounds in evolved stars. Nature 430, 985–991 (2004). https://doi.org/10.1038/nature02862

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