Astrochemistry: June 2014

Infrared spectra of carbon-rich objects which have evolved off the asymptotic giant branch reveal a range of dust properties, including fullerenes, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), aliphatic hydrocarbons, and several unidentified features, including the 21 um emission feature.

Complex Organic Molecules (COMs) are considered crucial molecules, since they are connected with organic chemistry, at the basis of the terrestrial life.

Stanley Miller, the chemist whose landmark experiment published in 1953 showed how some of the molecules of life could have formed on a young Earth, left behind boxes of experimental samples that he never analyzed. The first-ever analysis of some of Miller's old samples has revealed another way that important molecules could have formed on early Earth.

The past twenty years have revealed the diversity of planets that exist in the Universe. It turned out that most of exoplanets are different from the planets of our Solar System and thus, everything about them needs to be explored.

Using ESA's Herschel space observatory, astronomers have discovered that a molecule vital for creating water exists in the burning embers of dying Sun-like stars.

Biological molecules are characterized by an intrinsic asymmetry known as homochirality. The result is optical activity of biological materials and circular polarization in the light scattered by microorganisms, cells of living organisms, as well as molecules (e.g. amino acids) of biological origin.

Given the central role of carbon in the chemistry of life, it is a fundamental question as to how carbon is supplied to the Earth, in what form and when.

The birth environment of the Sun will have influenced the conditions in the pre-solar nebula, including the attainable chemical complexity, important for prebiotic chemistry.