More than 80 molecular species have now been observed by astronomers in the dense interstellar clouds where stars and planets form or in the envelopes expelled by evolved stars. Elemental constituents of these compounds include all of the "biogenic" elements, hydrogen, carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, sulfur, and (most recently) phosphorus. In addition, silicon is found in several molecules, and a series of metal halides have recently been detected in the outflowing envelope of a nearby carbon star. Additions to the list of known interstellar molecules since the last COSPAR meeting are discussed individually. Recent measurements of the hydrogen isotopic fractionation for the cyclic molecule C3H2are described; values up to 10,000 times the cosmic deuterium-to-hydrogen ratio are found. Knowledge of the chemical reservoirs for the major volatile elements and a comparison between observed molecular abundances and theoretical models are both discussed. © 1989.
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