Ural Federal University: Unique Machine to Create Space Conditions Located in the Urals

The Ural Federal University launched an experimental installation that simulates space conditions. With its help, employees of the scientific Laboratory of Astrochemical Research will grow analogues of interstellar ice (particles of space dust covered with ice) and study chemical compounds and the processes occurring in them. In the laboratory, astrochemists will be able to study in detail how complex molecules form under extreme cosmic conditions, which are then involved in the formation of something living. It is already known that there are, for example, carbon monoxide, methyl and ethyl alcohol in space, and glycine has recently been found. Scientists are sure that there are other compounds to be discovered.

“The installation will allow us to grow ice with a controlled composition. Using a turbomolecular pump, an ultra-deep vacuum will be created in a small chamber, similar to the vacuum in outer space. The cryostat will cool the chamber to the necessary temperature – minus 263°C,” says Anton Vasyunin, head of the Scientific Laboratory of Astrochemical Research.

Scientists will then be able to put water compositions mixed with various organic compounds inside the chamber. Thus, they will be able to find out what chemical processes take place in space conditions and whether they can lead to the formation of complex organic molecules, including amino acids, at very low temperatures and almost in total vacuum.

First of all, scientists will compare the results of their experiments with data obtained by the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) infrared telescope. JWST will first be able to obtain infrared spectra of their composition, and scientists in the laboratory will experimentally study what chemical reactions lead to the formation of such ice.

It is believed that it is in the particles of interstellar ice that the most interesting chemical reactions take place – the molecules form various complex substances. By comparing the data obtained in the laboratory and with JWST, the researchers will get reliable information about the composition of interstellar ice. This will help get closer to answering the question whether it is possible to originate life in space from the discovered organic compounds.

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