Hydrogen cyanide in a still unborn massive star
Underneath is the spectrum of the massive protostar. The spectrum of an object tells how the object absorbs or emits light depending on its chemical composition, thus the spectrum is a type of 'chemical fingerprint'. In this case, the fingerprint points to hydrogen cyanide in the spectrum of the protostar. This spectrum was obtained with the MPIfR/SRON heterodyne spectrometer on the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope. This spectrometer has a very high spectral resolving power and a state-of-the-art sensitivity. It is a 'test-bed' for HIFI, one of the instruments on board ESA's Herschel Space Observatory, due to be launched in 2007.