EDP Sciences
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Volume 415, Number 2, February IV 2004
Page(s) 425 - 436
Section Astrophysical processes
DOI http://dx.doi.org/10.1051/0004-6361:20034161

A&A 415, 425-436 (2004)
DOI: 10.1051/0004-6361:20034161

A quantitative analysis of OCN - formation in interstellar ice analogs

F. A. van Broekhuizen1, J. V. Keane2 and W. A. Schutte1

1  Raymond and Beverly Sackler Laboratory for Astrophysics, Leiden Observatory, PO Box 9513, 2300 RA Leiden, The Netherlands
2  NASA-Ames Research Center, Mail Stop 245-3, Moffett Field, CA 94035, USA

(Received 5 August 2003 / Accepted 5 November 2003 )

The 4.62 $\mu$m absorption band, observed along the line-of-sight towards various young stellar objects, is generally used as a qualitative indicator for energetic processing of interstellar ice mantles. This interpretation is based on the excellent fit with OCN -, which is readily formed by ultraviolet (UV) or ion-irradiation of ices containing H 2O, CO and NH 3. However, the assignment requires both qualitative and quantitative agreement in terms of the efficiency of formation as well as the formation of additional products. Here, we present the first quantitative results on the efficiency of laboratory formation of OCN - from ices composed of different combinations of H 2O, CO, CH 3OH, HNCO and NH 3 by UV- and thermally-mediated solid state chemistry. Our results show large implications for the use of the 4.62 $\mu$m feature as a diagnostic for energetic ice-processing. UV-mediated formation of OCN - from H 2O/CO/NH 3 ice matrices falls short in reproducing the highest observed interstellar abundances. In this case, at most 2.7% OCN - is formed with respect to H 2O under conditions that no longer apply to a molecular cloud environment. On the other hand, photoprocessing and in particular thermal processing of solid HNCO in the presence of NH 3 are very efficient OCN - formation mechanisms, converting 60%-85% and ~100%, respectively of the original HNCO. We propose that OCN - is most likely formed thermally from HNCO given the ease and efficiency of this mechanism. Upper limits on solid HNCO and the inferred interstellar ice temperatures are in agreement with this scenario.

Key words: methods: laboratory -- ISM: molecules -- ISM: lines and bands

Offprint request: F.A. van Broekhuizen, fvb@strw.leidenuniv.nl

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