The space between the stars, which is called the interstellar medium is not empty. Although the density of matter is very low (about 10,000 particles per cm3), there is a rich variety of atoms and molecules that populate it. The most abundant material, as in the rest of the universe is hydrogen (in three variants: ionized, atomic and molecular) and helium. But there are also molecules of all kinds, to over a hundred have come to find. Since the most abundant and simple, water (H2O), to large, complex organic chains as acetone or benzene.
Now, a multidisciplinary team of researchers led by the Centre for Astrobiology (CAB, CSIC-INTA) and the Institute of Structure of Matter and belonging to Team Consolider-Ingenio ASTROMOL, all in Spain, has detected the ammonium ion, NH4 +. Although the ammonia (NH3) had been detected previously, however, this is the first time that the ammonium ion is detected in space through its variant isotopic Nh3D + (one of the hydrogen atoms is replaced by a deuterium , a hydrogen isotope with one proton and one neutron in its nucleus unlike ordinary hydrogen has only one proton). "This ion is the initial point for the structure of ammonia, NH3 and aminated prebiotic molecules in space," says José Cernicharo, CSIC research professor at the Center for Astrobiology, and one of the leaders of this research.
The detection of this ion has been performed using the 30-m radio telescope at Pico Veleta (IRAM) in the region of massive star formation in Orion irc2 and very cold gas condensation in the region of Perseus (B1-bS). The identification has been possible thanks to new data obtained by infrared spectroscopy Molecular Physics Group of the Institute of Structure of Matter (CSIC).
Molecular Physics Group of the Institute of Structure of Matter (CSIC) has conducted laboratory measures infrared ν4 band of deuterated ammonium ion Nh3D +. The measures in the infrared significantly improve the previously conducted through a range of frequencies much more accurately and the large amount of observed spectral lines. The new measures have yielded more accurate values for the frequency of the rotational transitions of Nh3D +. The measured frequency coincides with the feature observed in Orion-irc2 and B1-bS by Molecular Astrophysics group identification confirming CAB Nh3D + for the first time in the interstellar medium. "This invention will certify predictions astrochemistry models on species abundance of ammonia and amino groups in the inner regions of proto-stellar objects, protoplanetary disks, and in regions of massive star formation," says Cernicharo.
The Astrochemistry seeks to expand our understanding of a world rich and varied organic species, such as the regions of star and planet formation that could well hold prebiotic roots of life. Ultimately, the Astrochemistry aims to determine the role of the molecules in the evolution of the Universe. Hence the great importance of studying the interstellar medium in search of new molecules that help us understand the chemical mechanisms that enable their training and guide us to understand how biotic molecules Life is reached.