Observational astrochemistry: The quest for interstellar molecules
1 IRAM, 300 rue de la piscine, 38406 St. Martin d’Hères, France
2 ENS-LRA/LERMA, 24 rue Lohmond, Paris, France
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Over 160 molecular species, not counting isotopologues, have been identified in circumstellar envelopes and interstellar clouds. These species have revealed a wealth of familiar, as much as exotic molecules and in complex organic (and silicon) compounds, that was fully unexpected in view of the harshness of surrounding conditions: vanishingly low densities, extreme temperatures and intense embedding UV radiation. They illustrate the diversity of astrochemistry and show robust prebiotic molecules may be. In this lecture, we review the quest for interstellar molecules and show how tributary it is from theoretical ideas and technology developments. A. A. Penzias, who discovered interstellar CO and the 2.7 K Cosmic Background radiation, used to joke that astronomical research is easy: the great questions have largely been formulated; one only has to wait until technological progress makes it possible to answer.
© Owned by the authors, published by EDP Sciences, 2011