School description and objectives

Interstellar polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons PAHs are ubiquitous and lock up close to 15% of the elemental carbon in space. They play a key role in the ionization balance and heating of the interstellar gas and thus control the phase structure of the interstellar medium (ISM) of galaxies and regulate star formation. PAHs are also central to the chemical complexity of space and the organic inventory of regions of star and planet formation. Understanding PAHs and their role in the Universe is thus a key question in astrophysics. On Earth, PAHs are predominantly known as carcinogenic pollutants, as found, for example, in motor vehicle exhaust fumes and petroleum-related pollution. However, in astrochemistry PAHs play much more benign roles: 1) They act as probes of astrophysical and astrochemical conditions both in the Milky Way and in other galaxies, even at high redshift. 2) They act as catalysts for H2 formation as well as for increasing molecular complexity and possibly even the chemical evolution of life. 3) They interact with interstellar nano-scale dust grains and control their surface properties. 4) They are found in comets and meteorites along with other organic molecules including amino acids - thus forging a strong link between interstellar and solar system chemistry.

The school will provide the students with a thorough training in astronomical observations and their analysis and laboratory techniques & quantum theoretical methods relevant to PAHs in space. Introductory lectures will ensure that the students can place interstellar PAHs in the wider context of astronomy and astrochemistry. The school will consist of a mixture of lectures and practical sessions. The lectures are intended to provide the students with the background of relevant topics, while the practical sessions will give the students hands-on experience in the reduction and interpretation of IR astronomical data, the use of quantum chemical computer codes such as Gaussian, and the exploration of astronomical and PAH data bases.

Organized on behalf of the Marie Curie Initial Training Network, EUROPAH, and the Dutch Astrochemistry Network, DAN-II by Antoine Gusdorf (LERMA, Observatoire de Paris), Xander Tielens (Leiden Observatory)


April 2-April 6: Arrival on Sunday evening April 1st, departure on Friday April 6 after lunch.