Astrochemistry: May 2021

Chondrites are rocky fragments of asteroids that formed at different times and heliocentric distances in the early solar system. Most chondrite groups contain water-bearing minerals, attesting that both water-ice and dust were accreted on their parent asteroids.

Cell membranes are a key element of life because they keep the genetic material and metabolic machinery together. All present cell membranes are made of phospholipids, yet the nature of the first membranes and the origin of phospholipids are still under debate.

The tracking of symmetry-breaking events in space is a longlasting goal of astrochemists, aiming at an understanding of homochiral Earth chemistry. One current effort at this frontier aims at the detection of small chiral molecules in the interstellar medium.

An international team of researchers led by Alice Booth (Leiden University, the Netherlands) have discovered methanol in the warm part of a planet-forming disk.

The chemical pathways linking the small organic molecules commonly observed in molecular clouds to the large, complex, polycyclic species long-suspected to be carriers of the ubiquitous unidentified infrared emission bands remain unclear.

Dust grains play a central role in the physics and chemistry of cosmic environments.

Lightning bolts break apart nitrogen and oxygen molecules in the atmosphere and create reactive chemicals that affect greenhouse gases.

The provenance of oxygen on Earth and other solar planetary bodies is a fundamental issue. It is widely accepted that the prebiotic pathway of oxygen production in the Earth primitive atmosphere was via vacuum ultraviolet (VUV) photodissociation of CO2 and subsequent recombination of two O atoms.

Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs) have long been invoked in the study of interstellar and protostellar sources, but the unambiguous identification of any individual PAH has proven elusive until very recently.