A common entity that connects everything from majestically looking galaxies and nebula to the enormously diversified biosphere on our planet is the thin cloud of molecules and particles in the void of our universe.
While being a difficult object to study due to its lack of ability to emit light or other kinds of electromagnetic radiation, it did not stop scientists from zooming in on these scarcely distributed "dusts" to understand how they come together to create stars, planets, and life forms. Dr. Ewine van Dishoeck, the 2018 Kavli Prize winner and a renowned astrochemist, is one of them.
In the earlier years of her career, van Dishoeck investigated the challenging question of how carbon monoxide (CO) is so prevalent in the stellar cloud despite its susceptibility to UV lights. Thanks to her work and critical observations of others, the conundrum was solved: the molecules on the cloud's outskirt and dust particles inside the cloud act as a protective/absorbing shield against UV damages. Later on, her career-long dedication to understanding interstellar clouds also led to the discovery of dust-binding water ice being a significant facilitator of star and planet formation, as well as other key mechanisms that bound our existence to the universe.
Source: SciShow via Youtube