Spectroscopic diagnostics of organic chemistry in the protostellar environment

S. B. Charnley*, P. Ehrenfreund, Y. J. Kuan

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

95 Citations (Scopus)


A combination of astronomical observations, laboratory studies, and theoretical modelling is necessary to determine the organic chemistry of dense molecular clouds. We present spectroscopic evidence for the composition and evolution of organic molecules in protostellar environments. The principal reaction pathways to complex molecule formation by catalysis on dust grains and by reactions in the interstellar gas are described. Protostellar cores, where warming of dust has induced evaporation of icy grain mantles, are excellent sites in which to study the interaction between gas phase and grain-surface chemistries. We investigate the link between organics that are observed as direct products of grain surface reactions and those which are formed by secondary gas phase reactions of evaporated surface products. Theory predicts observable correlations between specific interstellar molecules, and also which new organics are viable for detection. We discuss recent infrared observations obtained with the Infrared Space Observatory, laboratory studies of organic molecules, theories of molecule formation, and summarise recent radioastronomical searches for various complex molecules such as ethers, azaheterocyclic compounds, and amino acids.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)685-704
Number of pages20
JournalSpectrochimica Acta - Part A: Molecular and Biomolecular Spectroscopy
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2001 Mar 15


  • Astrochemistry
  • Astrophysics
  • Molecular
  • Spectroscopy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Analytical Chemistry
  • Atomic and Molecular Physics, and Optics
  • Instrumentation
  • Spectroscopy


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