The molecule that made the Universe

The molecule that made the Universe

How did the three simple chemical elements that were present immediately after the Big Bang – hydrogen, helium and lithium – grow into the 100-plus elements that exist today? And how did a few primitive molecules develop into the billions of incredibly complex living species?

The key lies with one of the earliest molecules to arise in the Universe – a simple form of hydrogen known by the prosaic name of H-three-plus. Its existence was first announced exactly a century ago by the eminent physicist J.J. Thomson. This talk will explain how the seemingly humble H-three-plus holds the key to creating complex molecules in interstellar space, what it tells us about how the earliest stars form and how it may even control the fate of planets like Jupiter, Saturn and the hundreds of giant extrasolar planets that we now know orbit other stars.

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About Steve Miller

Steve Miller is Professor of Science Communication and Planetary Science at University College London. He did his PhD in physical chemistry at Southampton University in 1975 before carrying out research at Manchester and Sheffield. In the 1980s he worked as a journalist for the Labour Party in London, returning to academia at UCL in 1986. His current research interests include studying the atmospheres of giant planets in our Solar System and around other stars. He is a member of the European Space Agency’s Solar System Exploration Working Group. He is author of The Chemical Cosmos published by Springer (2012).

Steve Miller’s home page • The Chemical Cosmos