Astrochemistry: April 2020

For the first time, NASA's Neil Gehrels Swift Observatory tracked water loss from an interstellar comet as it approached and rounded the Sun. The object, 2I/Borisov, traveled through the solar system in late 2019.

A multi-beam ultra-high vacuum apparatus is presented. In this article we describe the design and construction of a new laboratory astrophysics experiment -- VErs de NoUvelles Synthèses (VENUS) -- that recreates the solid-state non-energetic formation conditions of complex organic molecules in dark clouds and circumstellar environments.

Researchers at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI), the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) and their colleagues used a new geochemical tool to shed light on the origin of nitrogen and other volatile elements on Earth, which may also prove useful as a way to monitor the activity of volcanoes. Their findings were published April 16, 2020, in the journal Nature

In the past decade, Astrochemistry has witnessed an impressive increase in the number of detections of complex organic molecules. Some of these species are of prebiotic interest such as glycolaldehyde, the simplest sugar, or amino acetonitrile, a possible precursor of glycine.

Since the first laboratory synthesis of C60 in 1985, fullerene-related species have been proposed to interpret various astronomical features. After more than 25 years' efforts, several circumstellar and interstellar features have been convincingly assigned to C60, C70, and C+60.

The design, implementation, and performance of a customized carbon atom beam source for the purpose of investigating solid-state reaction routes in interstellar ices in molecular clouds are discussed.

The catalytic role of dust grain surfaces in the thermal reaction CO2 + 2NH3 → NH4+NH2COO was recently demonstrated by our group.

Methane is one of the simplest stable molecules that is both abundant and widely distributed across space. It is thought to have partial origin from interstellar molecular clouds, which are near the beginning of the star formation cycle.

Complex organic molecules (COMs) can be produced by energetic processing of interstellar ice mantles accreted on top of dust grains. Two COMs with proposed energetic ice formation pathways are formamide and acetaldehyde. Both have been detected in Solar System comets, and in different circumstellar and interstellar environments.