Encyclopedia of Astrobiology

Living Edition
| Editors: Muriel Gargaud, William M. Irvine, Ricardo Amils, Henderson James Cleaves, Daniele Pinti, José Cernicharo Quintanilla, Michel Viso

Cyanogen Radical

  • William M. Irvine
Living reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-642-27833-4_1806-4



The diatomic radical CN, containing carbon and nitrogen, is widely observed in the interstellar medium of the Milky Way and external galaxies. It plays an important role in interstellar chemistry, being an intermediary in the production and destruction of such important species as HCN and HNC. The CN radical is also prominent in the visible wavelength spectra of cometary comae (atmospheres), where it is presumably a photodissociation product of molecules such as HCN that are sublimated from the icy nucleus. Note that the molecule C2N2 is also referred to as the cyanogen radical. A chemical compound that contains the CN functional group (carbon triple bonded with nitrogen) is called a cyanide, while an organic compound with this CN group is called a nitrile.


Unlike most interstellar molecules, which were discovered by radio astronomical observations, CN was first identified at ultraviolet wavelengths in 1940, and it was one of the first...


Interstellar Medium Cyano Radical Visible Wavelength Astronomical Observation Rotational Line 
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References and Further Reading

  1. Crovisier J, Encrenaz T (2000) Comet science: the study of remnants from the birth of the solar system. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  2. Jefferts KB, Penzias AA, Wilson RW (1970) Observation of the CN radical in the Orion nebula and W51. Astrophys J 161:L87CrossRefADSGoogle Scholar
  3. McKellar A (1940) Evidence for the molecular origin of some hitherto unidentified interstellar lines. Publ Astron Soc Pac 52:187–192CrossRefADSGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of AstronomyUniversity of Massachusetts, Lederle Graduate Research Tower B 619EAmherstUSA