Space Science

Space, the Final Frontier! There’s an entire field—astrochemistry—dedicated to understanding the chemistry of the universe. 

Episode 61 | February 6, 2009

Episode 61: Space Science by Distillations Podcast

Space, the Final Frontier! Mention the chemistry of space and you’re likely to hear bad jokes about Tang or the behavior of liquids in zero gravity. But it turns out that there’s an entire field—astrochemistry—dedicated to understanding the chemistry of the universe. Astrochemists investigate the matter that makes up the stars, the planets, and the vastness of interstellar space. The closely related field of astrobiology investigates both the possibilities for life in space and the origins of life here on earth. On today’s show we talk with Stefanie Milam, a research associate with the SETI Institute, about the kinds of molecules found in space and what they can tell us about the possibilities of life beyond earth. We also explore how radio telescopes like the ones pictured above transform chemical information into images of the universe. Chemical Agent: Panspermia.

Show Clock

00:00 Opening Credits
00:31 Introduction
00:56 Chemical Agent: Panspermia
03:11 A conversation with Stefanie Milam
08:11 Tools of the Trade: Radio telescopes
11:15 Closing Credits

Resources and References

Find out more about science in space from NASA’s astrobiology program and its astrochemistry progam.

Our own executive producer, Audra Wolfe, has written on panspermia and the origins of exobiology. See Audra J. Wolfe, “Germs in Space: Joshua Lederberg, Exobiology, and the Public Imagination,” Isis 93 (2002): 183–205.

Watch videos, listen to podcasts, and see more images taken by and of the Very Large Array radio telescope site at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory homepage.


This show was written and researched by Audra Wolfe.

Our theme music is composed by Dave Kaufman. Additional music from the PodSafe Music Network. Additional music is: “Colors Lost,” by Ichiro Nakagawa, and “Pangalatic Glasstree,” by spheric lounge.

This week’s image is of the Very Large Array radio telescope site in New Mexico, and is courtesy of NRAO/AUI. For details, see the NRAO Image Use Policy.