Universiteit Leiden

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Shining Light on Interstellar Matter

Promotor: H.V.J. Linnartz

Daniel Paardekooper
05 juli 2016
Thesis in Leiden Repository

Where do the ingredients for life form?

In recent years it has become clear that the space in between the stars, the interstellar medium, contains a remarkable amount of highly diverse molecules, ranging from simple diatomics to large complex species, including so called COMs, complex organic molecules. Astronomical observations and dedicated laboratory experiments show that icy dust grains play a prominent role in the chemical enrichment of matter in space. Exotic solid state reactions taking place for temperatures as low as -260 Degrees merge small abundant species to larger and larger compounds until species are formed that are considered to be of relevance for life; sugars, fats and precursors of amino acids. Ultimately this material is embedded in matter from which stars and planets form. So, could it be possible, that the ingredients for life form everywhere, in space, following very similar chemical pathways?

In this thesis a dedicated laboratory study is described that studies exactly these processes. With a new experimental setup the physical and chemical processes are characterized that are needed to interpret and guide astronomical observations and that yield parameters needed as input in astrochemical models. It is concluded that the chemical complexity in the solid state reaches out much further than assumed so far.