Formation of ethylene glycol and other complex organic molecules in star-forming regions⋆
1 Osservatorio Astrofisico di Arcetri, Largo Enrico Fermi 5, 50125 Firenze, Italia
2 Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, 60 Garden St., Cambridge, MA 02138, USA
Received: 23 February 2016
Accepted: 23 August 2016
Context. The detection of complex organic molecules related with prebiotic chemistry in star-forming regions allows us to investigate how the basic building blocks of life are formed.
Aims. Ethylene glycol (CH2OH)2 is the simplest sugar alcohol and the reduced alcohol of the simplest sugar glycoladehyde (CH2OHCHO). We study the molecular abundance and spatial distribution of (CH2OH)2, CH2OHCHO and other chemically related complex organic species (CH3OCHO, CH3OCH3, and C2H5OH) towards the chemically rich massive star-forming region G31.41+0.31.
Methods. We analyzed multiple single-dish (Green Bank Telescope and IRAM 30 m) and interferometric (Submillimeter Array) spectra towards G31.41+0.31, covering a range of frequencies from 45 to 258 GHz. We fitted the observed spectra with a local thermodynamic equilibrium (LTE) synthetic spectra, and obtained excitation temperatures and column densities. We compared our findings in G31.41+0.31 with the results found in other environments, including low- and high-mass star-forming regions, quiescent clouds and comets.
Results. We report for the first time the presence of the aGg’ conformer of (CH2OH)2 towards G31.41+0.31, detecting more than 30 unblended lines. We also detected multiple transitions of other complex organic molecules such as CH2OHCHO, CH3OCHO, CH3OCH3, and C2H5OH. The high angular resolution images show that the (CH2OH)2 emission is very compact, peaking towards the maximum of the 1.3 mm continuum. These observations suggest that low abundance complex organic molecules, like (CH2OH)2 or CH2OHCHO, are good probes of the gas located closer to the forming stars. Our analysis confirms that (CH2OH)2 is more abundant than CH2OHCHO in G31.41+0.31, as previously observed in other interstellar regions. Comparing different star-forming regions we find evidence of an increase of the (CH2OH)2/CH2OHCHO abundance ratio with the luminosity of the source. The CH3OCH3/CH3OCHO and (CH2OH)2/C2H5OH ratios are nearly constant with luminosity. We also find that the abundance ratios of pairs of isomers (CH2OHCHO/CH3OCHO and C2H5OH/CH3OCH3) decrease with the luminosity of the sources.
Conclusions. The most likely explanation for the behavior of the (CH2OH)2/CH2OHCHO ratio is that these molecules are formed by different chemical formation routes not directly linked, although different formation and destruction efficiencies in the gas phase cannot be ruled out. The most likely formation route of (CH2OH)2 is by combination of two CH2OH radicals on dust grains. We also favor that CH2OHCHO is formed via the solid-phase dimerization of the formyl radical HCO. The interpretation of the observations also suggests a chemical link between CH3OCHO and CH3OCH3, and between (CH2OH)2 and C2H5OH. The behavior of the abundance ratio C2H5OH/CH3OCH3 with luminosity may be explained by the different warm-up timescales in hot cores and hot corinos.
Key words: astrobiology / astrochemistry / line: identification / molecular data / opacity / ISM: molecules
The reduced spectra (ASCII files) are only available at the CDS via anonymous ftp to cdsarc.u-strasbg.fr (188.8.131.52) or via http://cdsarc.u-strasbg.fr/viz-bin/qcat?J/A+A/598/A59
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