Detecting Chiral Asymmetry In The Interstellar Medium Using Propylene-oxide

By Keith Cowing
July 7, 2022
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Detecting Chiral Asymmetry In The Interstellar Medium Using Propylene-oxide

Life is distinctly homochiral. The origins of this homochirality are under active debate. Recently, propylene-oxide has been detected in the gas-phase interstellar medium (ISM) (McGuire et al. 2016).

The enantiomeric composition of ISM propylene-oxide may be probed through circular polarization measurements, but accurate estimates of the circular dichroism properties of the microwave transitions of propylene-oxide are not available. We develop a model of the circular dichroic activity in torsion-rotation transitions of closed-shell chiral molecules, such as propylene-oxide.

With this model, we estimate the viability, and optimize observation strategies, of enantiomeric excess detection in ISM propylene-oxide. We present estimates for the dichroic activity of the torsion-rotation transitions of propylene-oxide, where we predict that the circular polarization fractions of emission lines of enantiopure propylene-oxide relevant to astronomical detection of propylene-oxide are on the order of 10^(-6). Due to the low predicted circular polarization fractions, we conclude that enantiomeric characterization of propylene-oxide in the gas phase of the ISM is impossible with current astronomical observation techniques.

We suggest that only chiral radical species may be viably employed for enantiomeric excess detection. We estimate that laboratory experiments may be successful in detecting the enantiomeric composition of a mixture of propylene-oxide through microwave dichroism spectroscopy. The theory we present in this paper provides a solid theoretical underpinning for such laboratory circular dichroism measurements in microwave transitions.

Boy Lankhaar

Comments: Accepted for publication in A&A
Subjects: Astrophysics of Galaxies (astro-ph.GA); Chemical Physics (physics.chem-ph)
Cite as: arXiv:2207.02888 [astro-ph.GA] (or arXiv:2207.02888v1 [astro-ph.GA] for this version)
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Submission history
From: Boy Lankhaar
[v1] Wed, 6 Jul 2022 18:02:27 UTC (21 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) 🖖🏻