Tracing chemical complexity in planetary system progenitors

Date: 
Wednesday, October 16, 2019 - 3:30pm PDT
Speaker: 
Jennifer Bergner
Affiliation: 
Harvard University
Location: 
N232 R103
Event Type: 
Colloquium

Nascent planetary compositions are set by the inventories and distributions of molecules in protoplanetary disks. Understanding how planets are seeded with organic molecules, the building blocks for prebiotic chemistry, is key to assessing the habitability of other worlds. I will discuss recent progress in characterizing simple and complex organic molecules in protoplanetary disks using ALMA, and implications for the chemistry of different volatile elements (C, N, and O) in disks. As we are sensitivity-limited in the level of molecular complexity that can be detected in disks, observations of organic molecules in protostars offer important windows into the initial chemical conditions of disk and planet formation. To complement these observational approaches, I will outline our laboratory work exploring new pathways to chemical complexity in astrophysical ice analogs. By synthesizing laboratory and observational studies, we are constraining both the mechanisms and the outcomes of organic chemistry in star- and planet-forming regions.

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