Marco Padovani


padovaniAstroFIt 2 – COFUND fellow since November 1, 2016.

Project ended on October 31, 2019.

INAF Research Centre: Osservatorio Astrofisico di Arcetri

Email: marco.padovani at

Curriculum vitae

In the media:




Project title: ORIGIN – cOsmic Rays, trIGgers of prebIotic chemistry in the iNterstellar medium


The study of the interaction of cosmic rays (CRs) with the interstellar medium (ISM) is a multidisciplinary task requiring the analysis of several physical and chemical processes. Being the primary source of ionisation in dense molecular clouds (MCs) shielded by the interstellar UV radiation field, CRs produce molecular ions and electrons that activate the rich chemistry of dense cool gas, leading to the formation of complex species. By determining the ionisation fraction, CRs fix the degree of coupling of the gas with the local magnetic field, thus controlling the dynamical evolution of MCs and the efficiency of star and planet formation. In these processes, a fraction of the kinetic energy of CR particles is converted into heating, so that CRs also affect the thermal balance of MCs determining their temperature. In addition, CRs of energy of about 50-100 MeV produce light elements (Li, Be, B) by spallation reactions, while CRs of energies in the range GeV-TeV contribute to the γ-ray emission of MCs via pion decay. Finally, in the inner part of a prestellar core, CRs control the distribution of charge of dust grains and therefore the rate at which grains coagulate to form bigger conglomerates, a fundamental mechanism for the formation of planetesimals.

The goal of ORIGIN is to develop and use chemo-dynamical models and numerical simulations supplemented by dedicated observations to provide a unifying framework for the complex phenomena associated to the interaction of CRs with the ISM, in interstellar and protoplanetary environments. This research is fundamentally interdisciplinary, coupling the fields of astroparticle physics and astrochemistry to the new field of astrobiology: CRs are responsible for photolysing ices present on interstellar dust grains to form pre-biotic and biotic molecules. As a byproduct of this project, one expects therefore to determine the effects of particle irradiation on gas mixtures of composition similar to that of the proto-Earth.

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