Interstellar Aromatic Molecules: Recent Advances and a SOFIA-Enabled Future?
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Brett McGuire
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The Unidentified Infrared Bands, the low-frequency analog to the Diffuse Interstellar Bands, are now widely believed to originate from the emission of large, aromatic molecules in high-energy environments. Despite this, no individual species has been identified as a carrier, and indeed the only five- or six-membered aromatic ring molecule reported in the ISM is a single-line detection of benzene. Here, I will discuss a dedicated laboratory, observational, and modeling effort which has resulted in the first definitive identification and quantification of a benzene-ring containing aromatic molecule. The results will shed light on the probably formation pathways for larger aromatic species, and have identified a successful methodology for future, comprehensive investigations. A critical part of these observations may be provided by SOFIA, which has the potential to enable simultaneous observations of fully symmetric aromatic molecules to which radio astronomy is blind.

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