Astrochemistry

Definition

Astrochemistry is the study of the composition and reactions of atoms, molecules and ions in space. The topic includes the gathering of spectroscopic information from ground-, air- and space-based observatories, lab-based studies that replicate the harsh environments of space and modelling.

Latest Research and Reviews

  • Research | | open

    Extreme UV light sources allow us to study the dynamics of excited molecular stets over remarkably short timeframes. Here, the authors probe polyaromatic hydrocarbons—large organic molecules—and show their electronic excitation and subsequent ultrafast relaxation.

    • A. Marciniak
    • , V. Despré
    • , T. Barillot
    • , A. Rouzée
    • , M.C.E. Galbraith
    • , J. Klei
    • , C.-H. Yang
    • , C.T.L. Smeenk
    • , V. Loriot
    • , S. Nagaprasad Reddy
    • , A.G.G.M. Tielens
    • , S. Mahapatra
    • , A. I. Kuleff
    • , M.J.J. Vrakking
    •  & F. Lépine
  • Research | | open

    Extremophiles on Earth are known to respire methane, and the potential existence of methane on Mars indicates similar organisms could survive there. Here, the authors present data from Martian meteorites confirming the presence of methane, indicating that a habitat capable of supporting organisms exists on Mars.

    • Nigel J. F. Blamey
    • , John Parnell
    • , Sean McMahon
    • , Darren F. Mark
    • , Tim Tomkinson
    • , Martin Lee
    • , Jared Shivak
    • , Matthew R. M. Izawa
    • , Neil R. Banerjee
    •  & Roberta L. Flemming
  • Research |

    Although polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons have been observed in interstellar space, their formation mechanism is still unclear. Here, Merino et al. present a proof-of-concept study that these molecules can form in a top-down route on a graphitized surface of silicon-carbide stardust.

    • P. Merino
    • , M. Švec
    • , J.I. Martinez
    • , P. Jelinek
    • , P. Lacovig
    • , M. Dalmiglio
    • , S. Lizzit
    • , P. Soukiassian
    • , J. Cernicharo
    •  & J.A. Martin-Gago

News and Comment

  • News and Views |

    The first extraterrestrial detections of a member of the organohalogen family of molecules have been made towards comet Churyumov–Gerasimenko and low-mass protostar IRAS 16293-2422. Chloromethane, considered to be a biomarker, can form efficiently abiotically.

    • Marcelino Agúndez
    Nature Astronomy 1, 655–656
  • Editorial |

    Our inventory of the molecular universe is continually progressing. Our understanding of the astrochemistry behind it will flourish if we are mindful of funding experimental and theoretical efforts as well as observational.

  • Comments and Opinion |

    A pioneer in the field of astrochemistry, Patrick Thaddeus discovered dozens of exotic molecules in space and helped revolutionize our view of the interstellar medium and star formation.

    • Thomas Dame
  • Comments and Opinion |

    In the second of two essays looking at organic chemistry that can be found in the Solar System, Bruce C. Gibb focuses on the gas and ice giants as well as their satellites — concluding the tour on Saturn's fascinating moon Titan.

    • Bruce C. Gibb
    Nature Chemistry 7, 364–365
  • Comments and Opinion |

    Bruce Gibb wonders whether our faith in chemistry — and what it can teach us about the Universe beyond our Earthly bounds — will have a role to play in the search for alien life.

    • Bruce C. Gibb
    Nature Chemistry 6, 943–944