Modeling the processing of interstellar ices by energetic particles
Engineering Research Institute “Ventspils International Radio Astronomy Center” of Ventspils University College (VIRAC), Latvia
Received: 6 August 2012
Accepted: 30 April 2013
Context. Interstellar ice is the main form of metal species in dark molecular clouds. Experiments and observations have shown that the ice is significantly processed after the freeze-out of molecules onto grains. The processing is caused by cosmic-ray particles and cosmic-ray-induced UV photons. These transformations are included in current astrochemical models only to a very limited degree.
Aims. We aim to establish a model of the “cold” chemistry in interstellar ices and to evaluate its general impact on the composition of interstellar ices.
Methods. The ice was treated as consisting of two layers – the surface and the mantle (or subsurface) layer. Subsurface chemical processes are described with photodissociation of ice species and binary reactions on the surfaces of cavities inside the mantle. Hydrogen atoms and molecules can diffuse between the layers. We also included deuterium chemistry.
Results. The modeling results show that the content of chemically bound H is reduced in subsurface molecules by about 30% on average. This promotes the formation of more hydrogen-poor species in the ice. The enrichment of ice molecules with deuterium is significantly reduced by the subsurface processes. On average, it follows the gas-phase atomic D/H abundance ratio, with a delay. The delay produced by the model is on the order of several Myr.
Conclusions. The processing of ice may place new constraints on the production of deuterated species on grains. In a mantle with a two-layer structure the upper layer (CO) should be processed substantially more intensively than the lower layer (H2O). Chemical explosions in interstellar ice might not be an important process. They destroy the structure of the mantle, which forms over long timescales. Besides, ices may lack the high radical content needed for the explosions.
Key words: astrochemistry / molecular processes / ISM: molecules / ISM: clouds
© ESO, 2013