Carbon in the Universe

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Science  18 Dec 1998:
Vol. 282, Issue 5397, pp. 2204-2210
DOI: 10.1126/science.282.5397.2204

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Carbon is a major player in the evolutionary scheme of the universe because of its abundance and its ability to form complex species. It is also a key element in the evolution of prebiotic molecules. The different forms of cosmic carbon are reviewed ranging from carbon atoms and carbon-bearing molecules to complex, solid-state, carbonaceous structures. The current state of knowledge is assessed on the observational and laboratory fronts. Fundamental astrophysical implications are examined as well as the impact of these studies on the hitherto poorly understood physical and chemical properties of carbon materials in space.

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