Vacuum Ultraviolet Photoabsorption Spectroscopy Of Space-related Ices: Formation and Destruction of Solid Carbonic Acid Upon 1~keV Electron Irradiation


Carbonic acid

Carbonic acid (H2CO3) is a weak acid relevant to astrobiology which, to date, remains undetected in space. Experimental work has shown that the beta-polymorph of H2CO3 forms under space relevant conditions through energetic (UV photon, electron, and cosmic ray) processing of CO2- and H2O-rich ices.

We present a systematic set of VUV photoabsorption spectra of pure and mixed CO2 and H2O ices exposed to 1 keV electrons at 20 and 80 K to simulate different interstellar and Solar System environments. Ices were then annealed to obtain a layer of pure H2CO3 which was further exposed to 1 keV electrons at 20 and 80 K to monitor its destruction pathway. Fourier-transform infrared (FT-IR) spectroscopy was used as a secondary probe providing complementary information on the physicochemical changes within an ice.

Our laboratory work shows that the formation of solid H2CO3, CO, and O3 upon the energetic processing of CO2:H2O ice mixtures is temperature-dependent in the range between 20 and 80 K. The amorphous to crystalline phase transition of H2CO3 ice is investigated for the first time in the VUV spectral range by annealing the ice at 200 and 225 K.

We have detected two photoabsorption bands at 139 and 200 nm, and we assigned them to beta-H2CO3 and gamma-H2CO3, respectively. We present VUV spectra of the electron irradiation of annealed H2CO3 ice at different temperatures leading to its decomposition into CO2, H2O, and CO ice. Laboratory results are compared to Cassini UltraViolet Imaging Spectrograph observations of the 70-90 K ice surface of Saturn's satellites Enceladus, Dione, and Rhea.

S. Ioppolo, Z. Kanuchov√°, R. L. James, A. Dawes, A. Ryabov, J. Dezalay, N. C. Jones, S. V. Hoffmann, N. J. Mason, G. Strazzulla

Comments: Accepted for publication in Astronomy and Astrophysics
Subjects: Instrumentation and Methods for Astrophysics (astro-ph.IM); Earth and Planetary Astrophysics (astro-ph.EP); Astrophysics of Galaxies (astro-ph.GA)
Cite as: arXiv:2012.14863 [astro-ph.IM] (or arXiv:2012.14863v1 [astro-ph.IM] for this version)
Submission history
From: Sergio Ioppolo
[v1] Tue, 29 Dec 2020 17:30:30 UTC (2,060 KB)
Astrobiology, Astrochemistry

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