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21 January 2020
Special Colloquium - Astronomy and Chemistry

(Published - 21 January 2020}

The elements we know, from helium to uranium, are made in stars. Now, research is looking into how these elements combine - still in space - to form the basic building blocks of life; organic molecules. Prof. Ewine van Dishoek from Leiden University in the Netherlands and current President of the International Astronomical Union is visiting UWC on Wednesday 29 January 2020 and will share the latest research in the field of astrochemistry.

More information below:

Building stars, planets and the ingredients for life in space

Prof. Ewine F. van Dishoeck from Leiden Observatory, Leiden University

Date: Wednesday 29 January
Time: 11:00
Venue: Room 1.35, 1st floor, Department of Physics and Astronomy

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 F. van Dishoeck is professor of molecular astrophysics at Leiden University, the Netherlands. She graduated at Leiden in 1984 and held positions at Harvard, Princeton and Caltech before returning to Leiden in 1990. The work of her group innovatively combines the world of chemistry with that of physics and astronomy to study the molecular trail from star-forming clouds to planet-forming disks. She has mentored several dozens of students and postdocs and has been heavily involved in planning new observational facilities such as Herschel, ALMA and JWST. She has received many awards, including the 2000 Dutch Spinoza award, the 2015 Albert Einstein World Award of Science, and the 2018 Kavli Prize for Astrophysics. She is a Member or Foreign Associate of several academies, including that of the Netherlands, USA, Germany and Norway. Since 2007, she is the scientific director of the Netherlands Research School for Astronomy (NOVA). As of 2018, Ewine serves as the president of the International Astronomical Union (IAU).