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ISO results in space chemistry to be presented in Madrid 4 February

ISO results in space chemistry to be presented in Madrid 4 February

30 January 2000

Press conference 4 FebruaryThe stars are the chemical factories of the Universe: they synthesise intheir cores new chemical elements that combine in the stellar outskirtsto produce new molecules, and these will become part of the raw materialout of which more stars, planets, and maybe even living organisms willform. ESA's infrared space telescope, ISO, has identified many of thesecompounds in space. About 150 astronomers, including many experts in space-chemistry, will present and discuss results in the field at ESA's Villafranca station, in Madrid, Spain, from 2 to 4 February.

Leading topics will be:
  • the confirmation by ISO of the true nature of the large organic molecules found in many space environments;
  • the opening of a whole new field of 'astro-mineralogy';
  • the role of the water molecule in space;
  • and the origin of different bodies in our own Solar System.
Most molecules emit the bulk of their energy in the form of infrared light, and most infrared light is unable to cross the Earth's atmosphere. ISO is therefore the first telescope that has been able to make a detailed analysis of the space chemistry. The two spectrometers on board ISO could detect with a good resolution the 'chemical fingerprint' of many molecules. For instance, one of the main ISO results in this field has been the detection of the molecule of water in many regions of space - from clouds where new stars are forming, like Orion, to the centre of our galaxy. And ISO also studied the composition of several planets and comets in the Solar System, which allowed the scientists to test the models about their formation.

During the workshop 'ISO beyond the peaks' at ESA's Villafranca station in Madrid (2-4 February), astronomers will present new results related to the presence in space of the molecules PAHs (Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons), whose true nature has been under discussion for two decades. ISO's new data will help to solve the problem.

The fact that these compounds are so abundant shows that a very rich and active organic chemistry takes place in the space among the stars. Links between this chemistry and the chemistry developed in new-born planetary systems, including our own Solar System, are actively searched in comets and meteorites. Such studies may yield a clue on the problem of the origin of life in our Universe, as complex carbon-containing molecules are considered by some as pre-biotic material.

Other results to be presented have to do with the composition of the dust around stars. ISO has detected crystals in this dust for the first time, which allows a totally new field to open up: 'astro-mineralogy'. By the identification of each crystal astronomers will now be able to track their presence in different environments, and this will provide many clues about how the universe evolves.

**A press conference will be held on 4 February, 13.00 hours, at ESA's Villafranca station, Madrid.

Scientists attending the press conference:

Alberto Salama (ESA, ISO Data Centre), Chairman
Josi Cernicharo (CSIC)
Christine Joblin (CESR, Toulouse)
Rens Waters (University of Amsterdam)

Martin Kessler (ESA, ISO project scientist)

Journalists wishing to attend please send an email to:
msalomoniso.vilspa.esa.es
or phone +34 918131280 or +34 649 934887

Last Update: 1 September 2019
28-Oct-2021 13:47 UT

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