Molecular absorption and emission bands dominate the visible, infrared, and submillimeter spectra of most objects with associated gas. These observations reveal a surprisingly rich array of molecular species and attest to a complex chemistry taking place in the harsh environment of the interstellar medium of galaxies. Molecules are truly everywhere and an important component of interstellar gas. This review surveys molecular observations in the various spectral windows and summarizes the chemical and physical processes involved in the formation and evolution of interstellar molecules. The rich organic inventory of space reflects the multitude of chemical processes involved that, on the one hand, build up molecules an atom at a time and, on the other hand, break down large molecules injected by stars to smaller fragments. Both this bottom-up and the trickle-down chemistry are reviewed. The emphasis is on understanding the characteristics of complex polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon molecules and fullerenes and their role in chemistry as well as the intricate interaction of gas-phase ion-molecule and neutral-neutral reactions and the chemistry taking place on grain surfaces in dense clouds in setting the organic inventory of regions of star and planet formation and their implications for the chemical history of the Solar System. Many aspects of molecular astrophysics are illustrated with recent observations of the HIFI instrument on the Herschel Space Observatory.
Reviews of Modern Physics
- Pub Date:
- July 2013
- Molecular and chemical processes and interactions;
- Atomic molecular and chemical and grain processes;
- Atomic molecular chemical and grain processes