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By David E. Newton

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Indd 44 7/30/07 11:14:41 AM The Chemistry of Interstellar Space 45 these telescopes are the two that make up the Gemini system, one of which (Gemini North) is located on top of Mauna Kea in Hawaii and the other (Gemini South) at Cerro Pachón in central Chile. Gemini North was dedicated in June 2000 and Gemini South in January 2002. Both have the capability to search the skies for radiation from ISM molecules. Finally, telescopes on orbiting satellites have become an invaluable tool in studies of the interstellar medium.

At some point, the migrating atom may encounter a second hydrogen atom on the particle’s surface and combine with it to form a hydrogen molecule. Since that reaction is exothermic, it releases a small amount of heat, providing the energy needed to allow the newly formed hydrogen molecule to evaporate from the particle’s surface. Could diatomic hydrogen really be formed this way? In 1999, researchers at Syracuse University attempted to test this theory experimentally for the first time. They re-created in their laboratories the conditions under which H2 formation would occur, according to Salpeter and Hollenbach.

The “burning” of hydrogen to produce helium releases very large amounts of energy, which permits the escape (dispersion) of some matter from the young star. Gravitational and dispersive forces remain balanced in the star for an extended period of time—thousands or millions of years. At some point, the amount of energy being released as a result of fusion reactions becomes so great that it exceeds the gravitational attraction of particles within the star. The star then tends to release huge amounts of matter in a short period of time.

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