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From Astrochemistry to AstrobiologyTremendous strides have been made in our understanding of interstellar material over the past twenty five years thanks to significant developments in observational astronomy and laboratory astrophysics. Twenty years ago the composition of interstellar dust was largely guessed at, the concept of ices in dense molecular clouds ignored, and the notion of large, abundant, gas phase, carbon-rich molecules widespread throughout the interstellar medium (ISM) considered impossible. Today the composition of interstellar dust is reasonably well understood. In molecular clouds, the birthplace of stars and planets, these cold dust particles are coated with mixed molecular ices whose composition is very well constrained. Lastly, the signature of carbon-rich polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), shockingly large molecules by early interstellar chemistry standards, is widespread throughout the Universe. The first part of this talk will describe how infrared spectroscopic studies of interstellar space, combined with laboratory simulations of interstellar ice chemistry, have revealed the widespread presence of interstellar PAHs and the composition of interstellar ices, the building blocks of comets. The remainder of the presentation will focus on the photochemical evolution of these materials and astrobiology. Within a molecular cloud, and especially the presolar nebula, materials frozen into the ices are photoprocessed by ultraviolet light and produce more complex molecules. As these materials are the building blocks of comets and related to carbonaceous micrometeorites, they are likely to have been important sources of complex materials delivered to the early Earth and their composition may be related to the origin of life.
Document ID
Document Type
Allamandola, L. J. (NASA Ames Research Center Moffett Field, CA, United States)
Date Acquired
August 23, 2013
Publication Date
January 1, 2005
Subject Category
Meeting Information
Astrochemistry Seminar(IL)
Distribution Limits
Work of the US Gov. Public Use Permitted.