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ASTROROT Report Summary

Project ID: 638027
Funded under: H2020-EU.1.1.

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - ASTROROT (Unraveling interstellar chemistry with broadband microwave spectroscopy and next-generation telescope arrays)

Reporting period: 2015-05-01 to 2016-10-31

Summary of the context and overall objectives of the project

The goal of the research program, ASTROROT, is to significantly advance the knowledge of astrochemistry by exploring its molecular complexity and by discovering new molecular classes and key chemical processes in space. So far, mostly physical reasons were investigated for the observed variations in molecular abundances. We proposed to study the influence of chemistry on the molecular composition of the universe by combining unprecedentedly high-quality laboratory spectroscopy and pioneering telescope observations. Array telescopes provide new observations of rotational molecular emission, leading to an urgent need for microwave spectroscopic data of exotic molecules. We proposed to design and use newly developed, unique broadband microwave spectrometers with the cold conditions of a molecular jet and the higher temperatures of a static sample cell to mimic different interstellar conditions. Their key advantages are accurate transition intensities, large reduction in measurement times, and unique mixture compatibility.
Our laboratory experiments will motivate and guide astronomical observations, and they will enable their interpretation. We successfully used the first 18 months of the funding period to initiate new collaborations and to open up new research directions. This was greatly facilitated by the ERC Starting grant.
Within ASTROROT, we successfully started
• to develop novel broadband microwave spectrometers,
• to explore the molecular complexity by discovering new classes of molecules in space,
• to detect isotopologues that provide information about the stage of chemical evolution,
• to generate abundance maps of highly excited molecules to learn about their environment,
• to identify key intermediates in astrochemical reactions.
The results do significantly foster and likely revolutionize our understanding of astrochemistry. The research goes far beyond the state-of-the-art: We develop and use cutting-edge techniques in the laboratory and, in collaboration with experienced (radio)astronomers, use advanced telescopes to greatly improve and speed up the process of identifying molecular fingerprints. These techniques now enable studies for this important frontier of physics and chemistry that previously would have been prohibitively time-consuming or even impossible.

Work performed from the beginning of the project to the end of the period covered by the report and main results achieved so far

As outlined in the report, a number of subproject has been successfully started, which are also supported by new collaboration partners. Several publications are in preparation, one work was published so far (including a cover picture) (see uploaded picture):

Published work:
B. E. Arenas, S. Gruet, A. L. Steber, B. M. Giuliano, M. Schnell
“Chirped-pulse Fourier transform millimeter-wave spectroscopy of ten vibrationally excited states of i-propyl cyanide: exploring the far-infrared region”
Phys. Chem. Chem. Phys., accepted, Sept 2016, DOI: 10.1039/C3CP06297K

Progress beyond the state of the art and expected potential impact (including the socio-economic impact and the wider societal implications of the project so far)

As outlined in more detail in the report, the research program includes advanced spectrometer development, their application to astrochemical problems and radioastronomy observations. The results are communicated in scientific and public talks.

A deep understanding of astrochemical processes in interstellar space are also of relevance with respect to our understanding of the origin of life.

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