Astrochemistry studies the chemical reactions between atoms, molecules, and grains of dust in the interstellar medium, including the phases of star and planet formation. The prefix “astro” does not mean that we are talking about unearthly chemistry. The beloved only emphasizes that when studying interstellar chemical reactions, it is necessary to face conditions that are not found on Earth.
Let’s start with the chemical element solar . It was first discovered in the Sun’s corona using spectral analysis. In 1868, French astronomer P. Jansen observed a total solar eclipse in India and examined the sun’s chromosphere with a spectrograph.
He found a bright yellow line in the sun’s spectrum, which coincided with the yellow line of sodium. At the same time, this new line in the spectrum of the sun was seen by the English astronomer D. Lockyer, who realized that it belonged to an unknown element.
D. Lockyer decided to invite a new element with helium (from Greek. helios-dazhbog). Then a new yellow line was discovered by other researchers in the spectra of” terrestrial ” substances. In 1881, the Italian Palmieri discovered it in the study of a sample of gas taken from the crater of Vesuvius.
Why does helium appear in the stars? According to one of the fusion reactions:
2H + 3H → 4He + n + 17.6 MeV.
The unity of helium can be considered the beginning of all reactions in nature, the root cause of life, light, heat, and meteorological phenomena on Earth.
The birth of chemical elements is a form factor of stars. Up to and including iron, they are born in the thermonuclear processes of nuclear fusion in the bowels of countless suns. Starting with and after cobalt, the elements are created by supernova explosions from neutron-excess nuclei followed by a series of beta decays.
To date, the contours of 72 chemical elements have been found in the spectra of the Sun and other celestial objects.
The advent of radio telescopes made it possible to search for about one and a half hundred types of molecules in interstellar space — from diatomic to 13-atomic. Radio astronomers have shown why huge dark interstellar clouds contain complex molecules (methanol, carbon alumina, formaldehyde, ethanol, prussic acid, formic acid, etc.).
Molecular radio astronomy has made it possible to identify all these molecules by their rotational spectra in the microwave region.
Molecules play an important role in the collapse of interstellar clouds, leading to the formation of stars. As a result of gravitational attraction, interstellar clouds are compressed and heated, and the energy released in this process is emitted due to rotational transitions (mainly carbon monoxide molecules). This process causes a further collapse of the cloud, eventually leading to such pressures and temperatures, near which new stars and planets are formed. It can be stated that the very existence of the Earth is the result of astrochemical processes.
The dominant question facing astrochemistry is how far the synthesis of complex molecules in molecular clouds can go. The answer to get it has a direct bearing on the problem of the origin of life on Earth.
It is possible that it is not necessary to invent mechanisms for the synthesis of complex pre-organic compounds on Earth, since they were already present in our planetary system initially.
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