case western reserve university



Complex Interstellar Molecules

Eric Herbst (Ohio State University)

In the last thirty years, astronomers have detected a large number of molecules in the gas and solid phases of interstellar clouds, which are large and inhomogeneous accumulations of matter in between stars in our galaxy and others. The molecules are useful as probes of the current physical conditions in interstellar clouds and also yield information on the cloud lifetimes. The most complex of these molecules are found in regions of interstellar clouds that are collapsing to form stars and planets, and so tell us about the evolutionary stages leading to stellar and planetary formation. Moreover, these complex molecules are of interest to chemists because of the unusual manner in which they are synthesized and to geologists and biologists because they are related to the initial inventory of molecules present at the creation of planets.