By David E. Newton

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Indd 40 7/30/07 11:14:39 AM The Chemistry of Interstellar Space 41 lar writer of religious books for children, and his wife Jeanette Maan. After completing his high school education, van de Hulst entered the University of Utrecht, where he majored in theoretical astronomy. World War II interrupted his education in 1939, when he was drafted for service in the Dutch army. Van de Hulst was discharged two years later but was unable to return to the university because it had essentially been shut down because of the war.

For example, some research teams have been especially interested in determining the distribution of the radioactive isotope aluminum-26 in the ISM. The reason for their interest is that aluminum-26 is produced during certain element-forming reactions in stars. indd 25 7/30/07 11:14:31 AM 26 CHEMISTRY OF SPACE provide useful information as to where and how stars are forming elements. 2 × 105 years), providing a timeline over which stellar evolution may be taking place. The search for new species in the ISM often yields results with interesting connections to Earth-based chemistry.

The concentration of gases in the ISM is such that the chance of two hydrogen atoms finding each other is relatively low. One can calculate that such an event is likely to occur only once in every 106 seconds, or about once every two weeks. Further, the mean free path (the distance a particle will travel before it comes into contact with another particle) is estimated to be about 105 kilometers. While both the time scale and the distance scale of such events are large by Earth standards, they are minuscule by astronomical standards.

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