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First Detection of the pre-biotic Molecule Glycolonitrile (HOCH2CN) in the Interstellar Medium

Theories of a pre-RNA world suggest that glycolonitrile (HOCH2CN) is a key species in the process of ribonucleotide assembly, which is considered as a molecular precursor of nucleic acids.

|SOURCE| In this Letter, we report the first detection of this pre-biotic molecule in the interstellar medium (ISM) by using ALMA data obtained at frequencies between 86.5GHz and 266.5GHz toward the Solar-type protostar IRAS16293-2422 B. A total of 15 unblended transitions of HOCH2CN were identified. Our analysis indicates the presence of a cold (Tex=24±8K) and a warm (Tex=158±38K) component meaning that this molecule is present in both the inner hot corino and the outer cold envelope of IRAS16293 B.

The relative abundance with respect to H2 is (6.5±0.6)×10−11 and ≥(6±2)×10−10 for the warm and cold components respectively. Our chemical modelling seems to underproduce the observed abundance for both the warm and cold component under various values of the cosmic-ray ionisation rate (ζ). Key gas phase routes for the formation of this molecule might be missing in our chemical network.

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