Molecules in Space

Detection of new molecules, Molecular Spectroscopy in Space and Laboratory Astrophysics


Prof. José Cernicharo (research line leader), Dr. Marcelino Agúndez, Dr. Carlos Cabezas, Dr. José P. Fonfría, Dr. Nuria Marcelino, Dr. Sarah Massalkhi, Dr. Pablo Merino (also ICMM-CSIC), Dr. Juan R. Pardo, Dr. Guillermo Quintana-Lacaci, Dr. Marcelo Castellanos and Natalia R. Zelmanovitch. 

Associated members: Prof. Antonio Largo (head of Unidad Asociada Grupo de Espectroscopía Molecular – Universidad de Valladolid, Parque Científico de la UVA), Prof. José L. Alonso (former head), Prof. Carmen Barrientos and Prof. Pilar Redondo.

Research line briefing: this research line addresses the chemical complexity in space through multi and interdisciplinary frontier studies in the circumstellar envelopes of asymptotic giant branch stars (AGBs), supergiants and other evolved stars, cold molecular clouds and cold prestellar cores. We aim to identify key topics in these areas like dust grain formation, carbon, oxygen, silicon and nitrogen chemistry, deuteration, molecular tracers of shocks and water abundance. We address these science topics through ground-based multi-wavelength observations (radio with the Yebes Observatory; mm and submm with the ALMA interferometer and IRAM radio telescope; mid-infrared with the IRTF facility and optical with CAHA/CARMENES). These observations are complemented with space missions (data archives from ISO, Herschel) and airborne observatories (SOFIA in the mid-infrared). Finally, the line benefits from outstanding beyond-the-state-of-the-art laboratory experiments (GACELA under our leading ERC NANOCOSMOS project) to characterize molecules of astrophysical interest in order to search for them in Space and to study cold plasmas.

Main Research Topics

Recent Publications

Main national and international collaborations

Research projects (last 5 years)

  • Gas and dust from Stars to the Laboratory: Exploring the Nanocosmos (NANOCOSMOS)” (08/2014 – 07/2021). Reference: ERC-2013-SyG, Grant Agreement 610256. Funding agency: European Research Council (ERC, FP7). Corresponding principal investigator: Prof. José Cernicharo. Total funding: 14,98 M€.
  • Moléculas como precursores de los granos de polvo en estrellas evolucionadas. Desde las envolturas circunestelares al Medio Interestelar” – (06/2020 – 05/2024). Reference: PID2019-107115GB-C21. Funding agency: Ministerio de Ciencia e Innovación (Agencia Estatal de Investigación). Principal investigator: Prof. José Cernicharo. Total funding: 181.500 €.
  • Evolución física y química del Medio Interestelar, Circunestelar y Planetario” – (12/2016 – 12/2020). Reference: AYA2016-75066-C2-1-P. Funding agency: Ministerio de Economía, Industria y Competitividad (Agencia Estatal de Investigación). Principal investigator: Dr. Marcelino Agúndez. Total funding: 231.110 €.

Scholar supervision (last 5 years)

  • Massalkhi, Sarah. Ph. D. title: “An Observational Study of Molecular Dust Precursors in Circumstellar Envelopes“. Universidad Autónoma de Madrid (18/12/2020). Supervisor(s): Agúndez, M.; Cernicharo, J.
  • López-Jiménez, Alicia. Ph. D. title: “Química de Moléculas Orgánicas en Regiones de Formación de Estrellas Masivas“. Universidad Autónoma de Madrid (09/2017). Supervisor(s): Cernicharo, J.; Tercero, B.; Sánchez-Blázquez, P.
  • Cuadrado Prado, Sara. Ph. D. title: “Molecular content in the Orion Bar photodissociation region“. Universidad Autónoma de Madrid (09/2017). Supervisor(s): Goicoechea, J. R.; Cernicharo, J.
  • Velilla Prieto, Luis. Ph. D. title: “Molecular complexity in envelopes of evolved stars : detailed study of the molecular emissión of the objects IK Tau, OH231.8 + 4,2 and IRC+ 10216“. Universidad Complutense de Madrid (06/2017). Supervisor(s): Sánchez-Contreras, C.; Cernicharo, J.