Sulfur Ice Astrochemistry: A Review of Laboratory Studies

By Keith Cowing
January 13, 2021
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Sulfur Ice Astrochemistry: A Review of Laboratory Studies

Sulfur is the tenth most abundant element in the universe and is known to play a significant role in biological systems. Accordingly, in recent years there has been increased interest in the role of sulfur in astrochemical reactions and planetary geology and geochemistry.

Among the many avenues of research currently being explored is the laboratory processing of astrophysical ice analogues. Such research involves the synthesis of an ice of specific morphology and chemical composition at temperatures and pressures relevant to a selected astrophysical setting (such as the interstellar medium or the surfaces of icy moons).

Subsequent processing of the ice under conditions that simulate the selected astrophysical setting commonly involves radiolysis, photolysis, thermal processing, neutral-neutral fragment chemistry, or any combination of these, and has been the subject of several studies. The in-situ changes in ice morphology and chemistry occurring during such processing has been monitored via spectroscopic or spectrometric techniques.

In this paper, we have reviewed the results of laboratory investigations concerned with sulfur chemistry in several astrophysical ice analogues. Specifically, we review (i) the spectroscopy of sulfur-containing astrochemical molecules in the condensed phase, (ii) atom and radical addition reactions, (iii) the thermal processing of sulfur-bearing ices, (iv) photochemical experiments, (v) the non-reactive charged particle radiolysis of sulfur-bearing ices, and (vi) sulfur ion bombardment of and implantation in ice analogues. Potential future studies in the field of solid phase sulfur astrochemistry are also discussed in the context of forthcoming space missions, such as the NASA James Webb Space Telescope and the ESA Jupiter Icy Moons Explorer mission.

Duncan V. Mifsud, Zuzana Kanuchova, Peter Herczku, Sergio Ioppolo, Zoltan Juhasz, Sandor T. S. Kovacs, Nigel J. Mason, Robert W. McCullough, Bela Sulik

Comments: Peer-reviewed version accepted for publication in Space Science Reviews
Subjects: Earth and Planetary Astrophysics (astro-ph.EP); Instrumentation and Methods for Astrophysics (astro-ph.IM)
Cite as: arXiv:2101.05001 [astro-ph.EP] (or arXiv:2101.05001v1 [astro-ph.EP] for this version)
Submission history
From: Duncan V. Mifsud
[v1] Wed, 13 Jan 2021 11:06:43 UTC (730 KB)
Astrobiology, astrochemistry,

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) 🖖🏻