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The hunt for frozen organic molecules in space

Complex Organic Molecules (COMs) have been detected in objects across different stages of stellar evolution.

M. Gomes Rachid
09 May 2023
Thesis in Leiden Repository

Many of these COMs are expected to form on interstellar ice and transfer later to the gas phase. However, due to the challenge of detecting and assigning molecules in interstellar ice observations, the only frozen COM that has been unambiguously identified is methanol. This scenario is about to change, as the exceptional capabilities of the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) enable the observation of weak signatures of molecules in interstellar ice.This thesis has a main focus on laboratory studies to support interstellar ice observation with the JWST. The results of the spectroscopic characterization of three COMs, acetone, methylamine, and methyl cyanide mixed in interstellar ice analogs are presented in Chapters 3, 4, and 5, respectively. The potential of their absorption features to trace these species in JWST observations is also discussed. Chapter 6 presents a new experimental approach to studying morphological changes in frozen CO, which is important to understand its morphology in space. Chapter 7 presents a computational study that simulates the infrared spectra of small fullerenes (between 44-70 C atoms) and provides insights for future JWST searches for these molecules.

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