EDP Sciences
Open Access
Volume 499, Number 1, May III 2009
Page(s) 215 - 232
Section Interstellar and circumstellar matter
DOI http://dx.doi.org/10.1051/0004-6361/200811550
Published online 05 March 2009
A&A 499, 215-232 (2009)
DOI: 10.1051/0004-6361/200811550

Increased complexity in interstellar chemistry: detection and chemical modeling of ethyl formate and n-propyl cyanide in Sagittarius B2(N)

A. Belloche1, R. T. Garrod2, 1, H. S. P. Müller3, 1, K. M. Menten1, C. Comito1, and P. Schilke1

1  Max-Planck Institut für Radioastronomie, Auf dem Hügel 69, 53121 Bonn, Germany
    e-mail: [belloche;kmenten;ccomito;schilke]@mpifr-bonn.mpg.de
2  Department of Astronomy, Cornell University, 106 Space Sciences Building, Ithaca, NY 14853, USA
    e-mail: rgarrod@astro.cornell.edu
3  I. Physikalisches Institut, Universität zu Köln, Zülpicher Str. 77, 50937 Köln, Germany
    e-mail: hspm@ph1.uni-koeln.de

Received 19 December 2008 / Accepted 17 February 2009

Context. In recent years, organic molecules of increasing complexity have been found toward the prolific Galactic center source Sagittarius B2.
Aims. We wish to explore the degree of complexity that the interstellar chemistry can reach in star-forming regions.
Methods. We carried out a complete line survey of the hot cores Sgr B2(N) and (M) with the IRAM 30 m telescope in the 3 mm range, plus partial surveys at 2 and 1.3 mm. We analyzed this spectral survey in the local thermodynamical equilibrium approximation. We modeled the emission of all known molecules simultaneously, which allows us to search for less abundant, more complex molecules. We compared the derived column densities with the predictions of a coupled gas-phase and grain-surface chemical code.
Results. We report the first detection in space of ethyl formate (C2H5OCHO) and n-propyl cyanide (C3H7CN) toward Sgr B2(N). The detection of n-propyl cyanide is based on refined spectroscopic parameters derived from combined analyses of available laboratory spectroscopic data. For each molecule, we identified spectral features at the predicted frequencies having intensities compatible with a unique rotation temperature. For an assumed source size of 3$\arcsec$, our modeling yields a column density of 5.4 $\times$ 1016 cm-2, a temperature of 100 K, and a linewidth of 7 km s-1 for ethyl formate. n-Propyl cyanide is detected with two velocity components having column densities of 1.5 $\times$ 1016 cm-2 and 6.6 $\times$ 1015 cm-2, respectively, for a source size of 3$\arcsec$, a temperature of 150 K, and a linewidth of 7 km s-1. The abundances of ethyl formate and n-propyl cyanide relative to H2 are estimated to be 3.6 $\times$ 10-9 and 1.0 $\times$ 10-9, respectively. We derived column density ratios of 0.8/15/1 for the related species t-HCOOH/CH3OCHO/C2H5OCHO and 108/80/1 for CH3CN/C2H5CN/C3H7CN. Our chemical modeling reproduces these ratios reasonably well. It suggests that the sequential, piecewise construction of ethyl and n-propyl cyanide from their constituent functional groups on the grain surfaces is their most likely formation route. Ethyl formate is primarily formed on the grains by adding CH3 to functional-group radicals derived from methyl formate, although ethanol may also be a precursor.
Conclusions. The detection in Sgr B2(N) of the next stage of complexity in two classes of complex molecule, esters and alkyl cyanides, suggests that greater complexity in other classes of molecule may be present in the interstellar medium.

Key words: astrobiology -- astrochemistry -- line: identification -- stars: formation -- ISM: individual objects: Sagittarius B2 -- ISM: molecules

© ESO 2009