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From frosty ashes of stars to the molecules of life: unravelling the chemical universe

Dr Anita Dawes
This event took place on 9th April 2019 at 7:00pm (18:00 GMT)
Berrill Lecture Theatre, The Open University, Walton Hall Campus, Milton Keynes, United Kingdom

Until less than a century ago astronomers believed the space between the stars, the interstellar medium, to be just that…empty space. But it wasn’t until the 1970’s, with the discovery of interstellar formaldehyde, that we began to realise that there is more out there than meets the eye. To date, over 200 molecules have been identified in space including molecules the likes of which cannot exist naturally on earth as well as complex organic molecules, some of which are very familiar to us… molecules that make up the building blocks of life. These molecules are found in regions of space where stars and planets are born from vast clouds of dust and frost-covered dust grains. Could the building blocks of life have originated in space? This lecture will focus on our current knowledge of how such molecules form in space and follow their journey through the birth of stars and planets. We will also look ahead at what may lie in store for research in astrochemistry with the forthcoming launch of the much-awaited James Webb Space Telescope, which may help uncover clues concerning the greatest challenge of all – understanding the molecular origin of life.

The webcast was open to 3000 users

(61 minutes)