Astrophysics and Cosmology seminar

Wed, 10/17/2012 - 14:00 - 15:00
Susanna Widicus Weaver, Emory University

"Prebiotic Astrochemistry in the THz-Gap"

Fundamental biological molecules such as amino acids and sugars have been discovered in meteorites, but none of these species have yet been definitively detected in the interstellar medium (ISM). While both the number of detected interstellar molecules and their chemical complexity continue to increase, understanding of the processes leading to their formation is lacking. Our recent chemical modeling work suggests that organic radicals formed during the photolysis of interstellar ices provide the building blocks for the larger organic molecules found in star-forming regions. In order to investigate these interstellar prebiotic chemical pathways, we are developing new terahertz (THz) spectrometers to study the unstable, reactive molecules that are key reaction intermediates. We are also conducting deep, broadband observational spectral line surveys in the millimeter, submillimeter, and THz ranges to further examine the effects of physical environment on the chemical complexity in interstellar clouds. In this talk, I will present results from our modeling, laboratory, and observational studies that focus on the THz spectral signatures of prebiotic molecules in the ISM.