Complex Organic Molecules in the Interstellar Medium

The discovery of amino acids in meteorites and the detection of glycine in samples returned from a comet to Earth suggest that the interstellar chemistry is capable of producing such complex organic molecules.

Our goal is to investigate the degree of chemical complexity that can be reached in the ISM. We performed an unbiased, spectral line survey toward Sgr B2(N) and (M) with the IRAM 30m telescope in the 3mm window. The spectra were analyzed with a simple radiative transfer model that assumes LTE but takes optical depth effects into account.

About 3675 and 945 spectral lines with a peak signal-to-noise ratio higher than 4 are detected toward N and M, i.e. about 102 and 26 lines per GHz, respectively. This represents an increase by about a factor of 2 over previous surveys of Sgr B2. About 70% and 47% of the lines detected toward N and M are identified and assigned to 56 and 46 distinct molecules as well as to 66 and 54 less abundant isotopologues of these molecules, respectively. We also report the detection of transitions from 59 and 24 catalog entries corresponding to vibrationally or torsionally excited states of some of these molecules, respectively.

Excitation temperatures and column densities were derived for each species but should be used with caution. Among the detected molecules, aminoacetonitrile, n-propyl cyanide, and ethyl formate were reported for the first time in space based on this survey, as were 5 rare isotopologues of vinyl cyanide, cyanoacetylene, and hydrogen cyanide. We also report the detection of transitions from within 12 new vib. or tors. excited states of known molecules.

Although the large number of unidentified lines may still allow future identification of new molecules, we expect most of these lines to belong to vib. or tors. excited states or to rare isotopologues of known molecules for which spectroscopic predictions are currently missing. (abridged)

Arnaud Belloche, Holger S. P. Mueller, Karl M. Menten, Peter Schilke, Claudia Comito (Submitted on 23 Aug 2013)

Comments: Accepted for publication in A&A. 266 pages (39 pages of text), 111 tables, 8 figures

Subjects: Galaxy Astrophysics (astro-ph.GA)

DOI: 10.1051/0004-6361/201321096

Cite as: arXiv:1308.5062 [astro-ph.GA] (or arXiv:1308.5062v1 [astro-ph.GA] for this version)

Submission history From: Arnaud Belloche [v1] Fri, 23 Aug 2013 07:25:13 GMT (16932kb)

Please follow Astrobiology on Twitter.


  • submit to reddit