Laser desorption time-of-flight mass spectrometry of vacuum UV photo-processed methanol ice
Raymond and Beverly Sackler Laboratory for Astrophysics, Leiden Observatory, Leiden University, PO Box 9513, 2300 RA Leiden, The Netherlands
Received: 9 December 2015
Accepted: 10 May 2016
Context. Methanol in the interstellar medium mainly forms upon sequential hydrogenation of solid CO. With typical abundances of up to 15% (with respect to water) it is an important constituent of interstellar ices where it is considered as a precursor in the formation of large and complex organic molecules (COMs), e.g. upon vacuum UV (VUV) photo-processing or exposure to cosmic rays.
Aims. This study aims at detecting novel complex organic molecules formed during the VUV photo-processing of methanol ice in the laboratory using a technique more sensitive than regular surface diagnostic tools. In addition, the formation kinetics of the main photo-products of methanol are unravelled for an astronomically relevant temperature (20 K) and radiation dose.
Methods. The VUV photo-processing of CH3OH ice is studied by applying laser desorption post-ionisation time-of-flight mass spectrometry (LDPI TOF-MS), and analysed by combining molecule-specific fragmentation and desorption features.
Results. The mass spectra correspond to fragment ions originating from a number of previously recorded molecules and from new COMs, such as the series (CO)xHy+, with x = 3 and y < 3x−1, to which prebiotic glycerin belongs. The formation of these large COMs has not been reported in earlier photolysis studies and suggests that such complex species may form in the solid state under interstellar conditions.
Key words: astrobiology / astrochemistry / molecular processes / methods: laboratory: solid state / ISM: molecules / ultraviolet: ISM
© ESO, 2016