The Astrochemistry and Astrophysics Nucleus Research Group (NAQAF) will use ALMA radio telescope data to investigate chemistry in astrophysical environments. Photo: Y. Beletsky (LCO)/ESO

From Cuba to Chile to link Nuclear Physics and Astrochemistry

Nadia Politis

Report: Nadia Politis

9, April 2018

My name is Otoniel Denis Alpizar and I'm Cuban. I got into Universidad Autónoma de Chile in March 2017, I have gotten a FONDECYT Initiation Project No. 11160005, (2016-2019) and thank to this project  I joined the Nuclear Astrochemistry and Astrophysics Research Group (NAQAF). I´m also lecturer at the Faculty of Engineering on the same institution.

I study the Molecular Collision Systems, which means Physical Chemistry but very applied to Astronomy. Why? Because this work will have an impact on the determination of interstellar media conditions.


Dr. Otoniel Denis-Alpizar

I studied Nuclear Physics at the Higher Institute of Applied Sciences and Technologies (InSTEC) in Havana along with my master degree, and I did my PhD in Physical Chemistry at University of Bordeaux in France (Institut des Sciences Moléculaires Bordeaux) basically on molecular systems with interest in astrophysics. And from there I went to Switzerland (Universität Basel, Department of ChemistryBasel) and worked on molecular chemical reactions, but not under an Astrophysical focus anymore, but with interest in the aerospace industry. Chemical reactions that develop inside rockets when they reach the atmosphere.

A ship goes out into space and when it goes into the atmosphere acquires amazing temperatures, we are talking about 10 thousand Kelvin degrees and at those temperatures, the physics and chemistry of those processes are very different from low temperatures (at space)”

Since my area is more related to the theory rather than experiments, I mostly work with computers, so I have access to huge clusters.  In the case of Chile, the great advantage to work here is the time the country has allocated for observation. For that reason ALMA radio telescope dedicates 10% of its time for observation to Chilean researchers. The fact of doing research here is a big plus.

[SPANISH] “The great advantage is the Chilean observation time. ALMA dedicates 10% of its observation time to Chilean researchers. The fact of doing research here is a big plus”.

My research helps to build a base to identifying molecules through spectroscopy studies, and once you identify which molecule corresponds to a certain spectral line, the speed coefficients I see in the study of molecular collisions, these are used in astrophysical models to determine the abundance and temperature in the observed region of the interstellar medium. This type of work requires working closely with the Astronomers world-wide.

Other research project is also planned for this year in the framework of obtaining resources from the ECOS-CONICYT Scientific Cooperation Program, between France and Chile, which will focus on triatomic molecules considering the vibration (bending) from a collision between diatomic atoms and molecules.

[SPANISH] “We´re contributing to conquer the last frontier. At micro level, the studies are extremely deep, they are at the level of Quart. But at macro level, what do we have left? The universe. And that, in one way and another, interests us all”.

In deep...
Pioneers in Astrochemistry

The Astrochemistry and Astrophysics Nucleus Research Group (NAQAF) at Universidad Autónoma will use of data from the ALMA radio telescope to investigate chemistry in Astrophysical environments. This will allow to obtain more information about the origins of life and how chemical components plays a fundamental role in the analysis of galaxies, constellations, meteorites and comets.

Nadia Politis
Reportage: Nadia Politis

9, April 2018