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Weekly Space Hangout

Mar 19, 2022

On March 8, the ESO announced in their Press Release ( that a team of researchers from Leiden University, The Netherlands, had detected the largest molecule to date within a planetary disc. At 9-atoms, dimethyl ether is considered a precursor of larger organic molecules that can lead to the emergence of life. Tonight we are pleased to air Fraser's prerecorded interview with two members of the team that detected the molecule, Nashanty Brunken and Dr. Alice Booth, who will tell us more about this amazing detection.

Nashanty Brunken is an Astronomy Masters student at Leiden University with experience in Astrochemistry research. She is a writer at Leiden Science Magazine and De Universum. Previously, Nashanty was an astronomy Student Ambassador with experience in Public Relations and Communications.

Dr. Alice Booth is an Astrochemistry PostDoc at Leiden Observatory. She earned her PhD from the School of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Leeds, and her BS in Physics from the University of Aberdeen, her hometown, in 2016. She is interested in the formation, composition and detection of (exo)planets, and her current research centers around the structure and composition of protoplanetary disks. In addition to her research, Alice is passionate about science communication, has been involved with the organisation Pint of Science for a number of years, and coordinated Leeds Pint of Science 2019.

Be sure to follow Nashanty on LinkedIn (

You can learn more about Alice on her personal website (, her professional website (, and be sure to follow her on Twitter (


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