Infrared Spectroscopy of UV-Photolyzed Planetary Materials

Faculty Mentor - Dr. Perry Gerakines

The Astrophysics Laboratory at UAB has facilities for a wide variety of spectroscopic analyses. We use those facilities to create analogs of astrophysical materials as a means for understanding the physical and chemical processes that occur in the clouds of gas and dust between the stars as well as the planets and other bodies that make up the Solar System. In this project, the student will create analogs for interstellar and planetary ices and subject them to UV light from a hydrogen lamp in order to drive photochemistry that simulates exposure to UV from stars and the Sun. The resulting samples will be analyzed by IR spectroscopy for comparison to telescopic observations. The aim of this research will be to create laboratory spectra of known samples that will shed light on the composition and physical conditions of interstellar dust clouds and the surfaces of icy planets and moons of the Solar System. The undergraduate will learn the techniques of infrared spectroscopy, astrochemistry, as well as building and maintaining high-vacuum systems in the laboratory. REU students Kyle Harman and Amanda Cook have carried out this project in the last two years (2001-2). Amanda is presenting a poster about her work at the 2002 Division for Planetary Sciences conference (Oct 2002) [15]. Kyle was a co-author on a presentation made at the 2001 DPS conference (Nov 2001) [16].