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Astrochemistry: December 2019


Atmospheric compositions can provide powerful diagnostics of formation and migration histories of planetary systems.

Interstellar Objects (ISO) passing through our Solar System offer a rare opportunity to probe the physical and chemical processes involved in solid body and planet formation in extrasolar systems.

We review the state of knowledge on the origin of Earth's water. Empirical constraints come from chemical and isotopic measurements of solar system bodies and of Earth itself. Dynamical models have revealed pathways for water delivery to Earth during its formation; most are anchored to specific models for terrestrial planet formation.

Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) are key species in astrophysical environments in which vacuum ultraviolet (VUV) photons are present, such as star-forming regions.

High-resolution scans of a 4.6-billion-year-old meteorite have revealed 'fossilised' ice. It is the first direct evidence of early asteroids incorporating frozen water into their matrix when they formed.

An international team of astronomers have made a historic discovery using the William Herschel Telescope (WHT), detecting gas molecules in a comet which has tumbled into our solar system from another star. It is the first time that astronomers have been able to detect this type of material in an interstellar object.

Chemical evolution is essential in understanding the origins of life. We present a theory for the evolution of molecule masses and show that small molecules grow by random diffusion and large molecules by a preferential attachment process leading eventually to life's molecules.

Cometary comae are generally depleted in nitrogen. The main carriers for volatile nitrogen in comets are NH3 and HCN. It is known that ammonia readily combines with many acids like e.g. HCN, HNCO, HCOOH, etc. encountered in the interstellar medium as well as in cometary ice to form ammonium salts (NH4+X-) at low temperatures.

The famous Miller-Urey experiment, which provides essential information on the prebiotic synthesis of the molecules of life, still has many obscure points.