The largest noncyclic molecules detected in the interstellar medium (ISM) are organic with a straight-chain carbon backbone. We report an interstellar detection of a branched alkyl molecule, iso-propyl cyanide (i-C3H7CN), with an abundance 0.4 times that of its straight-chain structural isomer. This detection suggests that branched carbon-chain molecules may be generally abundant in the ISM. Our astrochemical model indicates that both isomers are produced within or upon dust grain ice mantles through the addition of molecular radicals, albeit via differing reaction pathways. The production of iso-propyl cyanide appears to require the addition of a functional group to a nonterminal carbon in the chain. Its detection therefore bodes well for the presence in the ISM of amino acids, for which such side-chain structure is a key characteristic.
- Pub Date:
- September 2014
- ASTRONOMY, CHEMISTRY;
- Astrophysics - Astrophysics of Galaxies
- This is the author's version of the work. It is posted here by permission of the AAAS for non-commercial use. The definitive version was published in Science 345, 1584 (2014), doi:10.1126/science.1256678