Author Archives: albertolesarri

COMs in Enceladus

An article in Nature reported the observation of astrophysically complex organic molecules (COMs) in cryo plumes ejected from the interior water ocean of Enceladus, one of Saturn satellites. The composition of the plumes was detected using mass spectrometry during a flyby of the spacecraft Cassini, before it was destroyed in 2017. Most of ice particles ejected from Enceladus are almost pure water, but a 1% is rich in organic molecules, some of them up to 200 amu. These results are the first evidence of complex organics from an extraterrestrial water ocean. The identity of these organic compounds is not clear, but they could contain carbon (C7 to C15), oxygen and eventually nitrogen. A prominent peak was associated to cationic forms of the benzene ring. Enceladus seems the only member of the solar system with a water ocean, an internal energy source and complex organics, apart from our planet.

Engineers Plan to Build Instrument to Study the Plumes of Enceladus

Picture Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Southwest Research Institute


Category : Conferences , Group News

Marcos Juanes attended the last International Symposium in Molecular Spectroscopy, which was organized by the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Marcos presented two oral communications during the conference on the dimers of cyclohexanol and thenyl and furfuryl alcohol.


Bunsentagung 2018

Category : Conferences , Group News

Marcos Juanes and Alberto Lesarri attended last May 10-12 the 117th Bunsentagung 2018 in Hannover, the annual conference of the Deutsche Bunsen-Gesellschaft or Bunsen society of Physical Chemistry. The Conference has been running since 1894. Alberto gave a hot topic talk and Marcos presented two posters. Several contributions to the Conference appeared in a special themed issue of PCCP “Kinetics in the real world“. The opening conference talk by Prof. James G. Anderson, with dramatic data on climate change and human health is freely available from PCCP.



The European (ESA-Roscosmos) ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter finished aerobraking dives and started taking data last April, 28. The Orbiter will specially check methane composition to discern if the  gas originated from geological or possible biological sources. The probe includes several ultraviolet and infrared spectrometers. The combination of mid-, near- and far-infrared spectra will provide identification of several atmospheric gases (H2O, O2, CO2, SO2, HF, HCl, etc).

In the picture below the Korolev crater, one of the first images from the orbiter.


Category : Conferences , Group News

Marcos Juanes and Rizalina Tama Saragi attended the Conference of Young Researchers in Atomic and Molecular Physics (X-J2IFAM-2018), which was organized at the University of Barcelona last April 3-6th, 2018. This edition marks the 10th anniversary of this meeting, which is organized by the own Ph.D. students. The Conference is sponsored by the Group of Atomic and Molecular Physics (GEFAM) of the Spanish Physics (RSEF) and Chemistry (RSEQ) societies.

In the pictures below Rizalina and Marcos give their oral talks.

Sulfur hydrogen bonds

Hydrogen bonds (HBs) involving sulfur are considered much weaker than those of more electronegative atoms. We recently published a comparison between the HBs in the furfuryl mercaptan – water dimer and compared the HBs with those in furfuryl alcohol. The investigation was published in Chemistry – A European Journal. and highlighted in the Journal cover.

The cover below shows a 3D map of electronegativity along the periodic table and the observed dimers.


Cosmic dawn

Category : Cosmology , General News

A VHF absorption signal at 78 MHz in the sky-averaged spectrum has been interpreted as a result of the formation of the first stars, a process that illuminated the universe with UV radiation and is called the cosmic dawn, as reported in a comment and article in Nature. The UV radiation would modify the excitation state of the 1420.4  MHz hydrogen spin atomic transition and would indicate the universe temperature. The linewidth suggest that the first stars appear 180 Myears after the Big Bang, while the flatten line profile has been connected speculatively with the interaction between normal matter and dark matter, which, if confirmed, would be truly remarkable.

Mars panorama

Following a five-year work of data collection the Mars rover “Curiosity” has produced an impressive panorama of the Gale impact crater that it has been exploring. The rover includes several spectroscopic experiments, including a LIBS (laser induced breakdown spectroscopy) instrument, capable to probe atomic composition at distances up to 7 m wit a 1064 nm IR laser. Other experiments include Raman spectroscopy (532 nm), Time-Resolved Fluorescence (TRF) spectroscopy and Visible and InfraRed (VISIR) reflectance spectroscopy (400 – 900 nm, 1.3 – 2.6 µm).

In the picture below the first LIBS spectrum on the “coronation” rock (August 2012).

Caminati visit

Category : Group News

Professor Walther Caminati (Università di Bologna) visited our group for two weeks in January 2018. Prof. Caminati is a leading figure in the investigation of hydrogen bonding using microwave spectroscopy. A recent report in Angewandte Chemie examined why some dimers of carboxylic acids and alcohols were unobservable in the gas phase. Read “The borderline between reactivity and prereactivity or binary mixtures of gaseous carboxylic acids and alcohols“.

In the picture below Prof. Caminati (center), Marcos Juanes y Rizalina T. Saragi.

Aromatics in space

Benzonitrile has been detected in the interstellar medium, as reported in Science. The interest of this aromatic molecule is the possibility of calculating the abundance of benzene from which it was generated, together with the growing interest to indentify the carriers of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and polycyclic aromatic nitrogen heterocycles. The report is introduced by Joblin and Cernicharo in the same issue. An updated list of molecules found in the space can be obtained from the Institut of Physics at the University of Cologne. In the picture below the Green Bank telescope. Related to this, Nature informs that the Arecibo telescope was saved from being dismantled thanks to a mistery funder.