Doctoral INPhINIT fellowships incoming: the link between astrophysical ice properties and astrobiology for the preparation of the JWST and JUICE Missions

Application deadline:

Our group research is devoted to i) solid matter in space that is mainly observed in the infrared (ice and dust grains) and its interaction with the gas observed in the radio ii) experimental simulations of photon- and ion-induced processes in ice analogs of astrophysical relevance, leading to formation of organic matter, and iii) organics present in interplanetary dust particles, comets and meteorites, which might have triggered prebiotic chemistry on Earth. Our main goal is to reproduce experimentally the conditions in space (ultra-high vacuum, radiation, temperatures down to 10 K) where simple molecules in the ice are converted to amino acids, nucleobases and other astrobiological species. These works are regularly published in astrophysical (A&A, ApJ, MNRAS) and multidisciplinary journals (Nature, PNAS, Science, Phys. Rev. Lett., Chem. Soc. Rev.).

The main goal is to study experimentally the physico-chemical properties of astrophysical ice analogues observed in ice mantles covering the dust of interstellar environments, and in frozen bodies of the Solar System: comets, Trans-Neptunian objects, and Jovian icy moons. The physical properties of the ice under study are thermal conductivity and heat capacity, density, spectroscopic properties in the infrared and Raman, reflectance in the visible, and ultrasonic propagation. Ices grown at 10 Kelvin made of several species (H2O, CO, CH3OH, CH4, NH3, etc.) will be exposed to ultraviolet radiation in our ultra-high vacuum ISAC chamber to produce molecules of astrobiological interest (amino acids, nitrogen-heterocycles), such as those present in comets which likely contributed to the origin of life on Earth. The student will study the connection between the efficiency in the synthesis of these species and the physical properties of ice. As an example, he/she will explore the effects of the transition from amorphous to crystalline ice in the generation of prebiotic molecules in irradiated ice upon subsequent warm-up.

This project will contribute to understand the prebiotic chemistry that occurs in astrophysical environments where multicomponent ices are present. It is of relevance for the interpretation of interstellar and circumstellar ice observations to be performed with the airborne JWST telescope, and the Jovian icy moons to be explored by the ESA-JUICE mission. Our group participates in both projects collaborating with other scientists at CAB, in particular Luis Colina and Olga Prieto. This line of research led to a recent publication in a high-impact factor journal (PNAS), where we showed that X-ray irradiation of a realistic ice analog reproduced the observations of molecules in circumstellar disks of young stars.

Research Group website:
https://www.cab.inta-csic.es/es/lineasdeinvestigacion/4/grupo-de-medio-…

Contact: Guillermo Manuel Muñoz Caro, gomezgf@cab.inta-csic.es

Group Leader website: http://www.acoctia.eu/munozcaro/index.html

More info about the position: https://finder.lacaixafellowships.org/finder

*Due to the migration of our webpage to a new one, we are unable to announce this offer directly in our page at the moment.