Detection and Formation of Ethyl Formate In The W51 e2 Hot Molecular Core

By Keith Cowing
Press Release
November 2, 2016
Filed under
Detection and Formation of Ethyl Formate In The W51 e2 Hot Molecular Core

The detection of organic molecules with increasing complexity and potential biological relevance is opening the possibility to understand the formation of the building blocks of life in the interstellar medium.

One of the families of molecules with astrobiological interest are the esters, whose simplest member, methyl formate, is rather abundant in star-forming regions. The next step in the chemical complexity of esters is ethyl formate, C2H5OCHO. Only two detections of this species have been reported so far, which strongly limits our understanding of how complex molecules are formed in the interstellar medium. We have searched for ethyl formate towards the W51 e2 hot molecular core, one of the most chemically rich sources in the Galaxy and one of the most promising regions to study prebiotic chemistry, especially after the recent discovery of the P−O bond, key in the formation of DNA. We have analyzed a spectral line survey towards the W51 e2 hot molecular core, which covers 44 GHz in the 1, 2 and 3 mm bands, carried out with the IRAM 30m telescope. We report the detection of the trans and gauche conformers of ethyl formate.

A Local Thermodynamic Equilibrium analysis indicates that the excitation temperature is 78±10 K and that the two conformers have similar source-averaged column densities of (2.0±0.3)×1016 cm−2 and an abundance of ∼10−8. We compare the observed molecular abundances of ethyl formate with different competing chemical models based on grain surface and gas-phase chemistry. We propose that grain-surface chemistry may have a dominant role in the formation of ethyl formate (and other complex organic molecules) in hot molecular cores, rather than reactions in the gas phase.

On the chemical ladder of esters. Detection and formation of ethyl formate in the W51 e2 hot molecular core

V. M. Rivilla, M. T. Beltrán, J. Martín-Pintado, F. Fontani, P. Caselli, R. Cesaroni
(Submitted on 2 Nov 2016)

Comments: Accepted in A&A; 11 pages, 6 figures, 7 Tables
Subjects: Astrophysics of Galaxies (astro-ph.GA)
Cite as: arXiv:1611.00719 [astro-ph.GA] (or arXiv:1611.00719v1 [astro-ph.GA] for this version)
Submission history
From: Victor Manuel Rivilla
[v1] Wed, 2 Nov 2016 18:37:06 GMT (381kb)

Explorers Club Fellow, ex-NASA Space Station Payload manager/space biologist, Away Teams, Journalist, Lapsed climber, Synaesthete, Na’Vi-Jedi-Freman-Buddhist-mix, ASL, Devon Island and Everest Base Camp veteran, (he/him) 🖖🏻