First Detection of the Simplest Organic Acid in a Protoplanetary Disk

By Keith Cowing
Press Release
July 26, 2018
Filed under
First Detection of the Simplest Organic Acid in a Protoplanetary Disk
Formic Acid

The formation of asteroids, comets and planets occurs in the interior of protoplanetary disks during the early phase of star formation.

Consequently, the chemical composition of the disk might shape the properties of the emerging planetary system. In this context, it is crucial to understand whether and what organic molecules are synthesized in the disk. In this Letter, we report the first detection of formic acid (HCOOH) towards the TW Hydrae protoplanetary disk.

The observations of the trans-HCOOH6(1,6)−5(1,5) transition were carried out at 129 GHz with ALMA. We measured a disk-averaged gas-phase t-HCOOH column density of ∼(2-4) × 1012 cm−2, namely as large as that of methanol. HCOOH is the first organic molecules containing two oxygen atoms detected in a protoplanetary disk, a proof that organic chemistry is very active even though difficult to observe in these objects.

Specifically, this simplest acid stands as the basis for synthesis of more complex carboxylic acids used by life on Earth.

Cécile Favre, Davide Fedele, Dmitry Semenov, Sergey Parfenov, Claudio Codella, Cecilia Ceccarelli, Edwin A. Bergin, Edwige Chapillon, Leonardo Testi, Franck Hersant, Bertrand Lefloch, Francesco Fontani, Geoffrey A. Blake, L. Ilsedore Cleeves, Chunhua Qi, Kamber R. Schwarz, Vianney Taquet

(Submitted on 16 Jul 2018)

Comments: 9 pages, 4 figures, 1 table, published online in ApJL on 16th July 2018
Subjects: Solar and Stellar Astrophysics (astro-ph.SR); Astrophysics of Galaxies (astro-ph.GA)
Journal reference: ApJL, 862, L2 (2018)
Cite as: arXiv:1807.05768 [astro-ph.SR] (or arXiv:1807.05768v1 [astro-ph.SR] for this version)
Submission history
From: Cecile Favre
[v1] Mon, 16 Jul 2018 10:15:18 GMT (1975kb)

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) 🖖🏻