LASP Science Seminars
The molecular origin of life: The formation, evolution, and detection of prebiotic molecules in space
(University of Bern, Switzerland)
The origin of life revolves around the question how small, simple molecules formed, gradually increased in chemical complexity, and eventually started working together to form a proto-organism. Within this concept, one exciting prospect is that (some of) the building blocks of life are formed in space and delivered to Earth, making life as we know it to some extent extraterrestrial.
During this seminar we take a journey through three stages of star- and planet-formation to see how the building blocks of life can be formed, evolve, and be detected. Radio telescope observations of young protostars are used to detect prebiotic molecules in the gas surrounding these objects, but analysis indicates that these molecules actually formed on ice-coated dust grains. Machine learning and Transition State Theory are used to determine desorption parameters of molecules, which govern at which temperature a molecule is in the solid-state or in the gas and set the chemical and elemental composition of planet-forming disks. Finally, the ORIGIN space instrument is shown, which is a laser desorption mass spectrometer capable of detecting amino acids, lipids, and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, identify the prebiotic chemical complexity on Solar System objects, and perhaps even find biosignatures.
Please note that the access road to the west of the SPSC Parking lot is being resurfaced; please enter via the North entrance, directly from Discovery Drive. There is a parking kiosk near the entrance to the building to pay for visitor parking.