Organic Matter in Space - an Overview

Proceedings of the International Astronomical Union 07/2008; 4(S251). DOI: 10.1017/S1743921308021078
Source: arXiv


Organic compounds are ubiquitous in space: they are found in diffuse clouds, in the envelopes of evolved stars, in dense star-forming regions, in protoplanetary disks, in comets, on the surfaces of minor planets, and in meteorites and interplanetary dust particles. This brief overview summarizes the observational evidence for the types of organics found in these regions, with emphasis on recent developments. The Stardust sample-return mission provides the first opportunity to study primitive cometary material with sophisticated equipment on Earth. Similarities and differences between the types of compounds in different regions are discussed in the context of the processes that can modify them. The importance of laboratory astrophysics is emphasized. Comment: Introductory overview lecture presented at IAU Symposium 251, "Organic matter in space", held at Hong Kong, February 2008; to appear in IAU Symposium 251 proceedings, Cambridge University Press, ed. S. Kwok et al

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