Astrochemistry & Star Formation

Hello. My name is Ruud Visser and I am a Postdoctoral Fellow at the European Southern Observatory (ESO) in Garching, Germany. My research focuses on the chemical aspects of star and planet formation. Combining observations and computer simulations, I’d ultimately like to understand how the Sun and the Earth were formed and how life here emerged.

Why chemistry? For one thing, because chemistry in space is so different from chemistry on Earth, so much more exotic than what we can do in a laboratory, and that’s cool. For another, because chemistry is an excellent tool to help unravel the mysteries of star and planet formation. In the earliest phases of star formation, when the young star is still deeply embedded in its natal envelope, molecular lines allow us to determine temperatures, densities, and kinematics. For example, emission from highly rotationally excited CO – observed with the Herschel Space Observatory – reveals the presence of hot gas excited by shocks and UV radiation. Chemical models are a key component to interpreting the observed spectra of CO and other species, so I also spend a lot of time on developing such models in the framework of ever more complex 3D physical structures.

Scientific interests
  • chemical evolution from pre-stellar cores to circumstellar disks
  • energetics and dynamics of embedded low-mass protostars
  • chemical composition of exoplanet atmospheres
  • photoprocesses (e.g. photoevaporation, photodissociation)

See my cv or publication record for details.

Outside of science

I developed an unexpectedly strong interest in birding during my time in Ann Arbor, and this hobby continues now that I live in Germany. I head out into parks or along the Isar as often as I can to watch familiar birds or find new species for my ever-growing life list. When out traveling for a conference or other business, I usually pack my binoculars and try to spend some time at a local birding hotspot.

Another long-time hobby of mine is photography, which happens to combine very well with bird watching. Want to see some of my bird pictures? Go right ahead!