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All posts; Tags Include "Astrochemistry"

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  • July 19, 2012
  • 01:59 PM

The Soot Line: Between fire and ice

by Invader Xan in Supernova Condensate

The question of precisely what happens as stars and planets condense from vast clouds of gas is still very much an unanswered one. We have some good ideas of how things work, but really it’s difficult to be certain. Newly … Continue reading →... Read more »

  • June 17, 2012
  • 06:31 PM

Totally Tropical Titan

by Invader Xan in Supernova Condensate

Our solar system is full of mysteries, and it seems the more we look, the more we find, and the less we can explain. Most recently, the puzzles of the martian methane and the beautifully lethal venusian clouds have been … Continue reading →... Read more »

  • June 6, 2012
  • 10:35 AM

Interstellar Sleuths

by Invader Xan in Supernova Condensate

“Of course, this identification is simply wrong.” That one remark caused a subdued but audible commotion in the audience, and a handful of shocked responses to be posted on twitter. The remark in question had been made by Jacek Krełowski, … Continue reading →... Read more »

Harvey Liszt, Paule Sonnentrucker, Martin Cordiner, & Maryvonne Gerin. (2012) The abundance of C3H2 and other small hydrocarbons in the diffuse interstellar medium. ApJL. arXiv: 1206.0342v1

  • August 17, 2010
  • 06:31 PM


by Invader Xan in Supernova Condensate

Causing quite a big stir in the astrochemical world recently is the astronomical detection of C60, more popularly known as fullerene. This is kind of a big deal. Fullerenes have been known about since the 1980s when Harry Kroto et al first created them by vapourising graphite with electrical discharges. Since then, it’s been found that C60 molecules are very stable and readily formed molecules. Lots of people have hypothesised them existing in space, but up until now there’s been no ........ Read more »

  • November 12, 2009
  • 03:53 PM

Might as Well be Water on the Sun

by Invader Xan in Supernova Condensate

Water is all the rage. It gets mentioned in every single high profile space mission of late. Searching for water on Mars, water inside Europa, water in the atmospheres of exoplanets. Going to the Moon? Don’t forget to check for water! All with good reason, of course. Being made of 72.8% water, it’s rather important that wherever we might go in the Universe, we have a ready supply of it. But water’s been found in some surprising places.... Read more »

Wallace L, Bernath P, Livingston W, Hinkle K, Busler J, Guo B, & Zhang K. (1995) Water on the sun. Science (New York, N.Y.), 268(5214), 1155-8. PMID: 7761830  

  • June 25, 2009
  • 08:55 PM

Life in the smoggy freezer?

by Invader Xan in Supernova Condensate

The twin questions of how and where life could begin from prebiotic chemistry are pretty big ones. Indeed, despite the now famous Miller-Urey experiment creating amino acids by zapping simple chemicals with lightning bolts, we’re not much closer to a proper answer for that question. A good place to look for answers though, is Titan. Out on Titan, methane acts like water does on Earth, and the mountains are made from ice and not silicates. Despite these outlandish differences, many believe that........ Read more »

Pilling, S., Andrade, D., Neto, A., Rittner, R., & Naves de Brito, A. (2009) DNA Nucleobase Synthesis at Titan Atmosphere Analog by Soft X-rays . The Journal of Physical Chemistry A, 2147483647. DOI: 10.1021/jp902824v  

  • April 14, 2009
  • 11:07 PM

How different could life be under a red dwarf sun?

by Invader Xan in Supernova Condensate

I’ve been mulling over this paper for a few days now. Last week, NASA JPL put out a press release about cool stars having a different mix of life forming chemicals to sun-like stars. The release was immediately picked up by news sites and bloggers alike. With good reason too — the findings could have a lot of implications for future astrobiology searches. With my interest piqued, I thought I’d get hold of a copy of the paper and find out more…... Read more »

I. Pascucci, D. Apai, K. Luhman, Th. Hemming, J. Bouwman, M. R. Meyer, F. Lahuis, A. Natta. (2009) The Different Evolution of Gas and Dust in Disks around Sun-like and Cool Stars. Astrophysical Journal (submitted). DOI:  

  • April 9, 2009
  • 12:17 AM

The Thermodynamics of Life

by Invader Xan in Supernova Condensate

Now I’m a big fan of alternative biochemistry theories in the search for extraterrestrial life. It seems logical to think that given the size of the universe and the number of possible environments out there, life might have found more than one way to organise itself. However, thanks to some clever thermodynamics, it looks quite likely that at least some alien life out there might not be so “alien” after all…... Read more »

  • January 18, 2009
  • 08:27 PM

How chemists can help astrobiologists...

by Invader Xan in Supernova Condensate

Quite a puzzler in astrochemistry and astrobiology is where exactly prebiotic amino acids form. We know they can form in interstellar space. We’ve found them inside chondritic meteorites. All the ingredients exist in the interstellar medium. There have even been reports of glycine detected in interstellar space. On the other hand, those reports are still unverified. But are we really looking for the right thing…?... Read more »

  • January 10, 2009
  • 10:31 PM

Extragalactic molecules!

by Invader Xan in Supernova Condensate

When I saw this paper’s title I was intrigued. When I realised what this paper was actually about, I was genuinely enthralled! A couple of months ago, I was wondering whether it would be possible to take a gamma ray burst spectrum and look for interstellar chemicals. Well, now someone has! And they’ve got the first concrete observations of molecules in a redshifted GRB host galaxy!... Read more »

J. X. Prochaska, Y. Sheffer, D.A. Perley, J. S. Bloom, L. A. Lopez, M. Dessauges-Zavadsky, H.-W. Chen, A. V. Filippenko, M. Ganeshalingam, W. Li.... (2009) The First Positive Detection of Molecular Gas in a GRB Host Galaxy. Astrophysical Journal Letters (accepted). DOI: arXiv:0901.0556v1  

  • December 24, 2008
  • 12:42 PM

A Simple Kind of Life

by Invader Xan in Supernova Condensate

As many an astrochemist will tell you without hesitation, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons are important molecules to study, because they’re directly relevant to the origins of life. We tend to repeat this like a mantra, and perhaps we don’t always fully appreciate the ramifications of what we’re saying. Contentious, hotly debated and under researched, the origin of life is a difficult and heavily transdisciplinary subject. It’s also a long standing fascination of mine, a........ Read more »

Pascale Ehrenfreund, Steen Rasmussen, James Cleaves, & Liaohai Chen. (2006) Experimentally Tracing the Key Steps in the Origin of Life: The Aromatic World. Astrobiology, 6(3), 490-520. DOI: 10.1089/ast.2006.6.490  

  • December 22, 2008
  • 04:02 PM

Protonation’s what you need

by Invader Xan in Supernova Condensate

Ah, the humble proton. Simple, stable, and able to drastically affect the chemistry of other molecules — and nowhere more so than in the Interstellar Medium (ISM). H2 molecules, for instance are readily protonated in dense interstellar clouds, forming H3 , and playing a key role in the formation of hydrides like ammonia and methane. CO forms HCO , N2 forms HN2 and so on. So what about those polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (PAH) molecules I keep talking about…?... Read more »

A. Pathak, & P. J. Sarre. (2008) Protonated PAHs as carriers of diffuse interstellar bands. Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society: Letters. DOI: 10.1111/j.1745-3933.2008.00544.x  

  • November 30, -1
  • 12:00 AM

How to spot exo-Earths...

by Invader Xan in Supernova Condensate

It seems like we’re not going to stop discovering new exoplanets anytime soon. Around one sixth of all exoplanets currently known can be observed transiting their star’s disk. Given that transits are precisely what NASA’s Kepler mission is going to spend the next three years looking for, that number is certainly set to increase over the coming months. But with exoplanet transits comes a unique opportunity to study them…... Read more »

Pallé, E., Osorio, M., Barrena, R., Montañés-Rodríguez, P., & Martín, E. (2009) Earth’s transmission spectrum from lunar eclipse observations. Nature, 459(7248), 814-816. DOI: 10.1038/nature08050  

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