From Molecules to ExoLife: Molecules in Astrophysics and Astrobiology
Multi-Disciplinary Winter School
February 13-17, 2017, Zurich, Switzerland
Molecules are found in a large variety of astronomical objects, ranging from comets in the solar system to galaxies at high redshifts. They appear in stellar atmospheres cooler than 7000 K and become the dominant species below 4000 K. This temperature range defines a big class of objects, including the Sun, solar-type stars and red dwarfs, evolved red giants and supergiants, substellar objects like brown dwarfs and planets, protoplanets and disks, interstellar clouds, and even cool white dwarfs. For these objects molecular spectroscopy provides a unique tool to study their physical properties, allows for deriving temperature inhomogeneities and offers an excellent opportunity to determine chemical compositions. Of particular interest is the possibility to study magnetic fields of these objects with the help of molecular spectropolarimetry.
Life that we know is also based on molecules. Those are much more complex than we encounter in astrophysics but their building blocks can be found even in space. Molecular biosignatures provide the basis for detecting life on other planets, even beyond the solar system. Detecting extra-terrestrial life will change our views on ourselves and our perception of the world we live in.
This International Winter School offers educational activities for graduate students, postdocs and also senior researchers, interested in various applications of molecular spectroscopy, spectropolarimetry and astrobiology. These include:
- Advanced lectures in molecular physics, chemistry, astrochemistry, biochemistry and biosignatures of life.
- Extended multiple-choice questionnaires aiming to help memorizing the lecture material.
- Tutorials of web-based numerical tools created within the HotMol projects for a broader community usage.
- Professional development workshop for advancing soft skills and careers of young scientists.
The School will end with panel and forum discussions on the life as a phenomenon.