The SKA As A Prebiotic Molecule Detector

By Keith Cowing
March 2, 2022
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The SKA As A Prebiotic Molecule Detector
Predicted absorption spectra of the C3 and C4 sugars glyceraldehyde, dihydroxyacetone and erythrulose obtained with the SLIM tool of the MADCUBA package considering the physical conditions of the G+0.693 molecular cloud (Tex=10 K, linewidths of ∆v=20 km s−1 and extended emission across the beam) and a background source similar to the L source in the SgrB2 N molecular complex (measurex flux of ∼300 mJy within a beam of 1” at 10 GHz). The assumed column densities for glyceraldehyde and dihydroxyacetone are 1013 cm−2 and 6.8×1012 cm−2 , respectively, while for erythrulose we assume a column density one order of magnitude lower than that of glyceraldehyde (of 1012 cm−2 ; see Section 3.1)

One of the theories for the origin of life proposes that a significant fraction of prebiotic material could have arrived to Earth from outer space between 4.1 and 3.8 billion years ago. This suggests that those prebiotic compounds could have originated in interstellar space, to be later on incorporated to small Solar-system bodies and planetesimals.

The recent discovery of prebiotic molecules such as hydroxylamine and ethanolamine in the interstellar medium, strongly supports this hypothesis. However, some species such as sugars, key for the synthesis of ribonucleotides and for metabolic processes, remain to be discovered in space. The unmatched sensitivity of the Square Kilometer Array (SKA) at centimeter wavelengths will be able to detect even more complex and heavier prebiotic molecules than existing instrumentation. In this contribution, we illustrate the potential of the SKA to detect simple sugars with three and four carbon atoms, using a moderate investment of observing time.

Izaskun Jimenez-Serra (1), Jesus Martin-Pintado (1), Aran Insausti (2,3), Elena R. Alonso (2,3), Emilio J. Cocinero (2,3), Tyler L. Bourke (4) ((1) Centro de Astrobiologia (CSIC/INTA), Torrejon de Ardoz, Spain, (2) Departamento de Quimica Fisica, Facultad de Ciencia y Tecnologia, Universidad del Pais Vasco (UPV-EHU), Bilbao, Spain, (3) Biofisika Institute (CSIC, UPV/EHU), Leioa, Spain, (4) SKA Observatory, Jodrell Bank, Macclesfield, United Kingdom)

Comments: 12 pages, 1 figure, 1 table, accepted for Frontiers in Astronomy and Space Sciences, section Astrochemistry
Subjects: Astrophysics of Galaxies (astro-ph.GA); Solar and Stellar Astrophysics (astro-ph.SR)
Cite as: arXiv:2203.00534 [astro-ph.GA (or arXiv:2203.00534v1 [astro-ph.GA] for this version)
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From: Izaskun Jimenez-Serra
[v1] Tue, 1 Mar 2022 15:16:01 UTC (2,369 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) 🖖🏻