Understanding the chemistry of Phosphorus, the missing pre-biotic element, in star-forming regions

Friday, June 21, 2019 - 3:00pm PDT
Francesco Fontani
Arcetri Observatory
N232 R103
Event Type: 

Phosphorus is a crucial element for the development of life as we know it, but because of its low abundance, until recently its interstellar chemistry was almost totally unknown. Since 2016, the star formation group at Arcetri has made a fundamental contribution to our understanding of the astrochemical processes that involve this element in the star-forming regions of the Galaxy, paving the way for a growing number of studies on this pre-biotic element that had been “forgotten” up to now. I will show some of the most important results obtained by our group, among which the first detection of the PO molecule, the basic bond of phosphates, in two star-forming regions, W51 and W3(OH). Another crucial result recently obtained is the tight relation between PN - the P-bearing molecule detected first in the interstellar medium and with the highest number of detections in star-forming regions so far - and SiO, a well-known shock tracer. Based on an unprecedented statistics, we have demonstrated that the presence of SiO and PN are strongly correlated in a variety of interstellar environments, indicating a similar production process.

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