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Astrochemistry: November 2016


One of the open questions in astrochemistry is how complex organic and prebiotic molecules are formed.

The possible meteorite parent body origin of Earth's pregenetic nucleobases is substantiated by the guanine (G), adenine (A) and uracil (U) measured in various meteorites.

The formation pathways of different types of organic molecules in protostellar envelopes and other regions of star formation are subjects of intense current interest.

The classical theory of grain nucleation suffers from both theoretical and predictive deficiencies. We strive to alleviate these deficiencies in our understanding of dust formation and growth by utilizing an atomistic model of nucleation.

The 2175 \AA\ UV extinction feature was discovered in the mid-1960s, yet its physical origin remains poorly understood. One suggestion is absorption by Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAH) molecules, which is supported by theoretical molecular structure computations and by laboratory experiments.

As many organic molecules, formic acid (HCOOH) has two conformers (trans and cis). The energy barrier to internal conversion from trans to cis is much higher than the thermal energy available in molecular clouds.

Traces of 2-3 Myr old 60Fe were recently discovered in a manganese crust and in lunar samples. We have found that this signal is extended in time and is present in globally distributed deep-sea archives.

The detection of organic molecules with increasing complexity and potential biological relevance is opening the possibility to understand the formation of the building blocks of life in the interstellar medium.

The elemental compositions of planets define their chemistry, and could potentially be used as beacons for their formation location if the elemental gas and grain ratios of planet birth environments, i.e. protoplanetary disks, are well understood.