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Interstellar Antifreeze: Ethylene glycol



J M. Hollis, Francis J. Lovas, P R. Jewell, L H. Coudert


Interstellar ethylene glycol (HOCH2CH2OH) has been detected in emission toward the Galactic center source Sagittarius B2( N-LMH) by means of several millimeter-wave rotational torsional transitions of its lowest energy conformer. The types and kinds of molecules found to date in interstellar clouds suggest a chemistry that favors aldehydes and their corresponding reduced alcohols-e.g., formaldehyde (H2CO)/methanol (CH3OH), acetal-dehyde (CH3CHO) ethanol (CH3CH2OH). Similarly, ethylene glycol is the reduced alcohol of glycolaldehyde (CH2OHCHO), which has also been detected toward Sgr B2( N-LMH). While there is no consensus as to how any such large complex molecules are formed in the interstellar clouds, atomic hydrogen (H) and carbon monoxide (CO) could form formaldehyde on grain surfaces, but such surface chemistry beyond that point is uncertain. However, laboratory experiments have shown that the gas-phase reaction of atomic hydrogen (H) and solid-phase CO at 10-20 K can produce formaldehyde and methanol and that alcohols and other complex molecules can be synthesized from cometary ice analogs when subject to ionizing radiation at 15 K. Thus, the presence of aldehyde/reduced alcohol pairs in interstellar clouds implies that such molecules are a product of a low-temperature chemistry on grain surfaces or in grain ice mantles. This work suggests that aldehydes and their corresponding reduced alcohols provide unique observational constraints on the formation of complex interstellar molecules.
The Astrophysical Journal


Hollis, J. , Lovas, F. , Jewell, P. and Coudert, L. (2004), Interstellar Antifreeze: Ethylene glycol, The Astrophysical Journal (Accessed April 19, 2024)
Created March 31, 2004, Updated October 12, 2021