February 2010


Ammomia (NH3) is one of the most familar molecules that is also found in space, and it's found in many places. It was also the first molecule with more than two atoms to be detected, as reported in 1968 by Cheung et al., a team led by Charles Townes, winner of a Nobel prize in 1964 (an account the discovery of both ammonia and water from the Hat Creek Radio Observatory appeared in an ASP conference proceeding in 2006). The first extragalactic detection of ammonia dates from 1979, and it was very recently detected in the Large Magellanic Cloud by Ott et al..

Following a tentative detection of NH3 in comet IRAS-Araki-Alcock (1983D) by Altenhoff et al., ammonia was observed more conclusively in comet Hyakutake by Wootten et al.

Ammonia has been known to be present in the atmospheres of Jupiter and Saturn and of Uranus and Nepture for a number of years. There is now evidence for ammonia on Titan, and it's thought NH3 may have been source of the N that makes up Titan's N2 atmosphere.

UPDATE (July 2018): Ammonia was detected in the protoplanetary disk TW Hydrae by Salinas et al. in 2016.

Ammonia is known for its pungent odor, as in the solvated form (ammonium hydroxide) encountered in glass cleaner.

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Maintained by DE Woon
Links verified / updated 30 July 2018