Experimental evidence for water formation on interstellar dust grains by hydrogen and oxygen atoms
LERMA-LAMAp, Université de Cergy-Pontoise, Observatoire de Paris, ENS, UPMC, UMR 8112 du CNRS, 5 mail Gay Lussac, 95000 Cergy Pontoise Cedex, France e-mail: email@example.com
2 Dipartimento di Metodologie Fisiche e Chimiche, Università di Catania, Viale A. Doria 6, 95125 Catania, Sicily, Italy
Accepted: 4 December 2009
Context. The synthesis of water is one necessary step in the origin and development of life. It is believed that pristine water is formed and grows on the surface of icy dust grains in dark interstellar clouds. Until now, there has been no experimental evidence whether this scenario is feasible or not on an astrophysically relevant template and by hydrogen and oxygen atom reactions.
Aims. We present here the first experimental evidence of water synthesis by such a process on a realistic analogue of grain surface in dense clouds, i.e., amorphous water ice.
Methods. Atomic beams of oxygen and deuterium are aimed at a porous water ice substrate (H2O) held at 10 K. Products are analyzed by the temperature-programmed desorption technique.
Results. We observe the production of HDO and D2O, indicating that water is formed under conditions of the dense interstellar medium from hydrogen and oxygen atoms. This experiment opens up the field of a little explored complex chemistry that could occur on dust grains,which is believed to be the site where key processes lead to the molecular diversity and complexity observed in the Universe.
Key words: astrochemistry / ISM: molecules / dust, extinction / methods: laboratory / molecular processes
© ESO, 2010