Western University Physics adn AstronomyWestern Science

Characterizing Cosmic Carbonaceous Material

Supervisor: Dr. Els Peeters

Project Description (Abstract):

Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbon molecules (PAHs) are among the largest and most complex molecules known in space. They pervade the universe, and play a crucial role in many astrophysical and astrochemical processes. They may well have played an important role in the evolution of prebiotic material from which biological systems evolved, and they are thus arguably the most important players in the cosmic organic inventory.

Our group aims to determine the detailed properties of the PAH population (size, shape, charge, composition) in space and their response to changing environments. Graduate projects involve analyses of observational data using modern data processing and machine-learning techniques to characterize the PAH variability, analyses of the dependence of the observed PAH variability on the local physical parameters (e.g. temperature, density, strength of the radiation field, ...) and/or interpretation of these observational results in terms of the properties of the PAH population (e.g. changes in size, shape, charge and composition) by using the NASA Ames PAH IR database (www.astrochem.org /pahdb).  These results will represent an important contribution towards the development of PAH diagnostic tools as well as to a better understanding of the cosmic carbonaceous inventory.

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