• Outstanding ASTROMOL articles:
  • Anion beam generation and patent application (LHM group): “Discharge source coupled to a deceleration unit for anion beam generation: Application to H2 photodetachment” (Review of Scientific Instruments, 84, 124102 (2013), January 2014).
  • Review on the outcome for the H + H2 → H2 + H bimolecular exchange reaction (DINQUIM-UCM group in international collaboration): “Is the simplest chemical reaction really so simple?” (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, January 7, 2014).
  • New accurate wavenumber laboratory measurements of 36ArH+ and 38ArH+ rotation-vibration transitions in the mid-infrared range (GFM-CSIC, AM-CSIC in international collaboration): “New accurate measurement of 36ArH+ and 38ArH+ ro-vibrational transitions by high resolution IR absorption spectroscopy” (The Astrophysical Journal Letters, 2014 ApJ 783 L5).
  • New laboratory data of ethyl mercaptan, CH3CH2SH, in the millimeter and submillimeter-wave domains (up to 880 GHz) provided very precise values of the spectroscopic constants that allowed the detection of gauche-CH3CH2SH towards Orion KL (GEM-UVA, AM-CSIC in international collaboration): “Spectroscopic characterization and detection of Ethyl Mercaptan in Orion” (The Astrophysical Journal Letters, 2014 ApJ 784, L7).
  • Aromatic species can be efficiently formed on the graphitized surface of the abundant silicon carbide stardust on exposure to atomic hydrogen under pressure and temperature conditions analogous to those of the interstellar medium (ICMM-CSIC with AM-CSIC in international collaboration): “Graphene etching on SiC grains as a path to interstellar polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons formation” (Nature Communications 5, Article number: 3054, January 2014).

HOT ASTROMOL NEWS¡¡¡ (December 13, 2013): An international collaboration, including ASTROMOL, has found first evidence of a noble-gas based molecule in space (Science, 342, 6163, 1343-1345, 13 December 2013. DOI: 10.1126/science.124358213

“This kind of molecules had been produced in the laboratory but it was unknown whether the adequate conditions to form them in space exist. Now we know it is possible and this discovery will allow to study much more in detail the interaction between supernova and the surrounding medium”, remarks co-author José Cernicharo, coordinating P.I. of the ASTROMOL project and researcher at CSIC.

Crab Nebula with emission lines from argon hydride in its spectrum

Crab Nebula image based on data taken with the PACS instrument on board Herschel, at a wavelength of 70 microns. Below the image, a spectrum of the far-infrared light from the Crab Nebula is shown. The spectrum was taken with the SPIRE instrument on board Herschel at wavelengths ranging from 660 microns to 200 microns. the first two rotational transitions of ArH+ are shown over the continuum dust emission. Credit: ESA/Herschel/PACS, SPIRE/MESS Key Programme Supernova Remnant Team

COMING SOON¡¡¡ (November, 2013): First ASTROMOL results with ALMA Science Cycle 0 observations in IRC+10216 (accepted for publication in The Astrophysical Journal Letters)

HOT ASTROMOL NEWS!! (June 21, 2013): ASTROMOL researchers detect the Ammonium Ion for the first time in Space

“The Ammonium Ion (NH4+) is the starting point to form Ammonia (NH3) and amine prebiotic molecules in Space”, comments José Cernicharo, coordinating P.I. of the ASTROMOL project and researcher at the Centro de Astrobiología. This finding is supported by accurate IR laboratory measurements made by the GFM-CSIC group (Instituto de Estructura de la Materia, CSIC). Two articles have been accepted for publication in The Astrophysical Journal Letters.

ammonia ion feature

HOT ASTROMOL NEWS (August 6, 2013): ASTROMOL researchers find evidences that rule out the presence of pure and amorphous CO2 ice in space

“In order to study the formation of ice, CO2 molecules were accumulated little by little to generate very thin monolayers. In this process, we identified that, before the crystals are arranged in an ordered pattern, another stage came up in which the carbon dioxide presented an amorphous structure. This was identified by means of the X-Band”, comments Guillermo M. Muñoz-Caro, co-author and ASTROMOL researcher at the Centro de Astrobiología. The article has been accepted for publication in the PNAS (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America).

HOT ASTROMOL NEWS!! (June 5, 2013): ASTROMOL researchers confirm the presence of PAHs in the upper atmosphere of Titan

“We can finally confirm that PAHs play a major role in the production of Titan’s lower haze, and that the chemical reactions leading to the formation of the haze start high up in the atmosphere,” comments Manuel López-Puertas, a researcher from the Instituto de Astrofísica de Andalucía (CSIC) in Granada, Spain and an active member of the Consolider-Ingenio ASTROMOL. “This finding is surprising: we had long suspected that PAHs and aerosols were linked in Titan’s atmosphere, but didn’t expect we could prove this with current instruments,” he adds. Prof. López-Puertas is the first author of a paper, published in The Astrophysical Journal, describing these results.


HOT ASTROMOL NEWS!! (May 7, 2013): ASTROMOL researchers discover a rich variety of molecules at our Galaxy warm heart

“We detected a surprisingly rich variety of molecules in the environment of Sgr A* that really exceeded our expectations,” comments Dr. Javier R. Goicoechea. “The molecules range from highly excited carbon monoxide and water vapour, to hydrogen cyanide and many light molecules that play a critical role in the chemistry of the interstellar medium. Some of them had not been detected before Herschel,” he adds.


HOT ASTROMOL NEWS!! (April 29, 2013): Herschel closes its eyes on the Universe

ESA’s Herschel space observatory has exhausted, as planned, its supply of liquid helium coolant, concluding over three years of pioneering observations of the cool Universe. Herschel will continue communicating with its ground stations for some time now that the helium is exhausted, during which a range of technical tests will be performed. Finally, in May, it will be propelled into its long-term stable parking orbit around the Sun.

HOT ASTROMOL NEWS!! (March 13, 2013): ALMA Inauguration – Press releases

The Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA), was inaugurated at an official ceremony. This event marks the completion of all the major systems of the giant telescope and the formal transition from a construction project to a fully fledged observatory. ALMA is a partnership between Europe, North America and East Asia in cooperation with the Republic of Chile.

HOT ASTROMOL NEWS!! (Nov. 27, 2012): ALMA Early Science Cycle 1: Outcome of the Proposal Review Process

196 highest-priority projects, out of 1.113 science proposals, have been selected to be completed using the ALMA Cycle 1 capabilities, after their technical feasibility was confirmed by fifteen technical assessors from the Joint ALMA Observatory and the three ALMA Regional Centers. 4 Consolider-Ingenio ASTROMOL proposals have been selected, which is an outstanding result for the team. Our selected proposals are listed below:

  • A High Angular Resolution Study of the Dust Formation Zone of IRC+10216: José Cernicharo / Michel Guelin / Marcelino Agúndez / Nuria Marcelino / Javier R. Goicoechea / Arancha Castro-Carrizo / John C. Pearson
  • The fundamental structure of molecular cloud edges: from clumps to photoevaporation: Javier R. Goicoechea / Sara Cuadrado / Marcelino Agúndez / Nuria Marcelino / José Cernicharo / Asunción Fuente / Paolo Pilleri
  • Warm Deuteration of HCN in Orion-KL: Nuria Marcelino / José Cernicharo / Belén Tercero / Evelyne Roueff / Henry Wootten / Aina Palau
  • The rotating equatorial disk in the Red Rectangle: Valentín Bujarrabal / Javier Alcolea / Arancha Castro-Carrizo / Miguel Santander-García / Roberto Neri / Carmen Sánchez Contreras / Hans Van Winckel / Robert Lucas

The complete list of the 196 highest-priority projects can be found here


Both the detection in space of several molecular species and their analysis in terms of the physical conditions in the emitting regions, together with the implications of these data for the physical and chemical processes ruling the universe, require a close synergy between laboratory spectroscopists, molecular physicists, chemists, and astronomers. This requires a new and innovative approach to this field and that is precisely the scope of this project Consolider-Ingenio “Molecular Astrophysics: the Herschel and ALMA era” (ASTROMOL – Ref.: CSD2009-00038), funded by the Spanish “Subprograma Consolider-Ingenio del Ministerio de Ciencia e Innovación”. The coordinating and managing institution of Consolider-Ingenio ASTROMOL is the Spanish National Research Agency, Agencia Estatal Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas (CSIC).

Consolider-Ingenio ASTROMOL encompasses leading scientists in all these areas to work together towards a common goal: the understanding of the Molecular Universe. The identification of species in the insterstellar medium requires direct comparison of the observed frequencies of emission or absorption lines with spectroscopic measurements of known species in a controlled laboratory experiment. Several key topics in the areas of molecular complexity in space as well as the chemistry of planetary and star-forming regions will be addressed:


  • Water vapour in the Universe
  • Carbon, nitrogen and oxygen chemistry
  • Deuterated molecules
  • Chemical complexity
  • Molecular ionisation and photodissociation
  • Molecular tracers of shocks
  • Interstellar dust grain chemistry


Consolider-Ingenio ASTROMOL is achieving a high degree of synergy amongst astrophysicists, chemists and physicists in order to unveil the physics of molecules of astrophysical interest, with the final goal of preparing sound scientific foundations for the interpretation of the data that ALMA is providing from 2011 on (Early Science), and to maximize the scientific return from ESO’s telescopes and the Herschel mission. The Physical-Chemistry groups of ASTROMOL are developing new techniques and instrumentation to address these aspects:

  • Scientific exploitation of the Herschel Space Telescope through the participation in several Key Programs and normal observing projects for the Herschel mission.
  • Participation in the activities of commissioning and software development for the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) (see image at the bottom), which will become fully operational in 2013. See the ALMA Early Science Cycles 0 and 1 and the outstanding results that ASTROMOL has achieved.
  • Development of radiative transfer codes necessary to interpret Herschel and ALMA data.
  • Laboratory production and detection of species of astrophysical interest by developing state of the art techniques. Relevant neutral and ionic species will be produced in the laboratories by means of different techniques (iontrap systems, laser techniques, anion beams). See the Technical Developments under the Science and Technology tab.
  • Measurement and spectral characterization (MW, IR, vis-UV) of molecules, radicals, and ions produced with those techniques, and experimental determination of collision and radiative rates of neutral and ionic molecular species. Follow-ups will be addressed in this page.
  • Development of new ab initio and dynamical methods to calculate the molecular structure and spectroscopic properties, and to simulate the dynamics and kinetics of the measured species. Follow-ups will be included in this page.


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Acknowledgements: we thank Fernando Camps, Juan A. Ramírez and Luis Mora, from the CAB informatics unit, for their support in the development of this page.