Building stars, planets and the ingredients for life in space
27 Jan 2020 - 12:15
Professor Ewine van Dishoeck, Professor of Molecular Astrophyics at Leiden University and President of the International Astronomical Union, will present a special lecture in the Faculty of Science, entitled "Building stars, planets and the ingredients for life in space" in celebration of 50 years of Astronomy at UCT this year.
One of the most exciting developments in astronomy is the discovery of thousands of planets around stars other than our Sun. But how do these exo-planets form, and why are they so different from those in our own solar system? Which ingredients are available to build them? Thanks to powerful new telescopes, astronomers are starting to address these age-old questions scientifically. Stars and planets are born in the cold and tenuous clouds between the stars in the Milky Way, and the new ALMA array now allows us to zoom in on planetary construction zones for the first time. Water and a surprisingly rich variety of organic materials are found, including simple sugars. Can these pre-biotic molecules end up in comets and ultimately new planets and thus form the basis for life elsewhere in the universe? What did the Rosetta mission find when it landed on comet 67P?
Professor Ewine van Dishoeck is Professor of Molecular Astrophysics at Leiden University, and the president of the International Astronomical Union. She is one of the pioneers of astrochemistry, and her research is aimed at determination of the structure of cosmic objects using their molecular spectra. Over her career she has received a large number of awards and distinctions, including, in 2018, the Kavli Prize (Norway) for Astrophysics, for her combined contributions to observational, theoretical, and laboratory astrochemistry, elucidating the life cycle of interstellar clouds and the formation of stars and planets.
Light snacks and drinks will be served in the foyer after the talk, when there will also be an opportunity to engage with Prof van Dishoeck.