SUMMARY: Using a ratio of 100:1:1 of nitrogen gas, methane, and carbon monoxide at very low temperatures and pressure, scientists found that beaming the gas mixture with UV photons can produce new products. These new products, when warmed up, has a red color. This gives scientists more insights as to what molecules and ions make up the surface of deep solar system objects like Pluto.
LESSON COMMENTS: There is a lot of focus on how residues are identified by scientists: Infrared spectroscopy, X-ray, and gas chromatography mass spectrometry. This is a good way to combine both chemistry and physics concepts for students. This paper can show students how physics is used to look at tiny things, like the simple molecules in this paper.
Organic chemistry teachers can also use this talk about: functional groups, bonds (single, double, triple) between carbon atoms, and aromatic compounds.
Materese, C. K., Cruikshank, D. P., Sandford, S. A., Imanaka, H., Nuevo, M., & White, D. W. (2014). Ice Chemistry On Outer Solar System Bodies: Carboxylic Acids, Nitriles, And Urea Detected In Refractory Residues Produced From The Uv Photolysis Of N2:ch4:co-Containing Ices. The Astrophysical Journal,788(2), 111. doi:10.1088/0004-637x/788/2/111