Looking for the bricks of the life in the interstellar medium: The fascinating world of astrochemistry
Scuola Normale Superiore – Piazza dei Cavalieri 7, I-56126 Pisa, Italy
Dipartimento di Chimica “Giacomo Ciamician”, Università di Bologna Via F. Selmi 2, I-40126 Bologna, Italy
Published online: 16 December 2020
The discovery in the interstellar medium of molecules showing a certain degree of complexity, and in particular those with a prebiotic character, has attracted great interest. A complex chemistry takes place in space, but the processes that lead to the production of molecular species are a matter of intense discussion, the knowledge still being at a rather primitive stage. Debate on the origins of interstellar molecules has been further stimulated by the identification of biomolecular building blocks, such as nucleobases and amino acids, in meteorites and comets. Since many of the molecules found in space play a role in the chemistry of life, the issue of their molecular genesis and evolution might be related to the profound question of the origin of life itself. Understanding the underlying chemical processes, including the production, reactions and destruction of compounds, requires the concomitant study of spectroscopy, gas-phase reactivity, and heterogeneous processes on dust-grains. The aim of this contribution is to provide a general view of a complex and multifaceted challenge, while focusing on the role played by molecular spectroscopy and quantum-chemical computations. In particular, the derivation of the molecular spectroscopic features and the investigation of gas-phase formation routes of prebiotic species in the interstellar medium are addressed from a computational point of view.
© The Authors, published by EDP Sciences, 2020
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