Van Dishoeck receives the Kavli prize for astrophysics because she put an incredibly important research domain on the map.
Van Dishoeck can receive the prize - consisting of a gold medal and 1 million dollars - on 4 September. The prize is awarded by King Harald V of Norway.
Interstellar gas clouds
Van Dishoeck conducts intensive research into interstellar gas clouds through observations and experiments. These are large gas and dust clouds from which stars and planets arise. Thanks to the work of Van Dishoeck, we now know how molecules form in these interstellar clouds that eventually clump together and form the building blocks for planetary systems such as ours.
And that may be considered a breakthrough. "Until about thirty or forty years ago, chemists thought that the chemical reactions in interstellar space were of no significance," Vincent Icke, professor of theoretical astronomy at the Leiden Observatory recently told Scientias.nl. That picture changed when Van Dishoeck examined the issue for her dissertation. "She concluded that there were probably many chemical reactions in the interstellar space." In the years that followed, Van Dishoeck worked out that idea further and succeeded in proving the existence of those chemical reactions in the interstellar space.
On the map
And not only that. Van Dishoeck put this particularly interesting research domain on the map. "Van Dishoeck's research has changed almost every aspect of astronomy," said Robert Kennicutt, jury member of the Kavli Prize. “Her field was once no more than a small research area on the edges of astrophysics. But thanks to her, it is now a core theme in all astronomy. "
Rightly so. Because the work of Van Dishoeck is crucial in the search for extraterrestrial life. After all, we expect that life on planets - or moons - that ultimately come from such an interstellar gas cloud. And thanks to the work of Van Dishoeck and colleagues, we gradually get more insight into the molecules and chemical reactions that play in the birth rooms of stars and planets. And so we can ultimately get a better picture of the (organic) molecules that a planet receives at its birth and to what extent life can arise from it.
... about the research domain of Van Dishoeck, or the chemistry between the stars? Then also read the interview with Icke in which he inimitably reveals what is happening in the apparent 'empty' space between the stars.