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Astrochemistry: May 2013


Astrochemistry aims at studying chemical processes in astronomical environments. This discipline -- located at the crossroad between astrophysics and chemistry -- is rapidly evolving and explores the issue of the formation of molecules of increasing complexity in particular physical conditions that deviate significantly from those frequently encountered in chemistry laboratories. The main goal of this paper is to provide an overview of this discipline.

Scientists at NASA's Ames Research Center now have the capability to systematically investigate the molecular evolution of cosmic carbon. For the first time, these scientists are able to automatically interpret previously unknown infrared emissions from space that come from surprisingly complex organic molecules, called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), which are abundant and important across the universe.

In fossil remnants of iron-loving bacteria, researchers of the Cluster of Excellence Origin and Structure of the Universe at the Technische Universitaet Muenchen (TUM), found a radioactive iron isotope that they trace back to a supernova in our cosmic neighborhood. This is the first proven biological signature of a starburst on our earth.