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Interstellar Dust Analogues

Astronomical measurements of infrared spectra show signatures of dust superimposed upon stellar emissions. A first step in understanding the development of protoplanetary nebula is simply identifying the dust that exists in space. To achieve this end, we are acquiring and archiving mid- and far-IR reflectivity spectra and thin film data of about 100 minerals thought to be part of the condensation sequence, or identified in meteorites, and various simple chemical compounds. Quantitative analyses of these data provide optical functions and emission spectra, which can be used to infer grain sizes, in addition to chemistry and structure. Application to ISO and Spitzer stellar absorbance spectra is made possible through NASA and NSF funded joint investigations at the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences at Washington University - St. Louis and the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Missouri - Columbia, as well as through collaborations with nonprofit (Planetary Science Institute) and international institutions (University College London). Upcoming plans include the acquisition of low temperature emission and reflection spectra and the study of organic compounds.

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