Probing star formation in the Universe with carbonaceous molecules

Supervisor: Dr. Els Peeters

Project Description (Abstract):

Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs) are complex organic molecules made of carbon and hydrogen. They are extremely abundant, and shine brightly in the infrared, often dominating the infrared emission of entire galaxies. PAHs efficiently convert UV radiation from young massive stars into their bright infrared emission bands. Therefore, their usefulness as a tracer, i.e., quantitative indicator, of star formation is currently explored, potentially allowing the determination of star formation rates for a large number of galaxies. The global star formation history of the Universe is one of the key indicators for understanding the evolution of galaxies as a whole, and for discriminating among different formation scenarios.  We use modern data processing techniques to characterize the properties of PAH emission in nearby galaxies in order to develop PAH emission as a tracer for star formation in the Universe.