Large prebiotic molecules in space: photophysics of acetic acid and its isomers




An increasing number of large molecules have been positively identified in space. Many of these molecules are of biological interest and thus provide insight into prebiotic organic chemistry in the protoplanetary nebula. Among these molecules, acetic acid is of particular importance due to its structural proximity to glycine, the simplest amino acid. We compute electronic and vibrational properties of acetic acid and its isomers, methyl formate and glycolaldehyde, using density functional theory. From the computed photoabsorption cross-sections, we obtain the corresponding photoabsorption rates for solar radiation at 1 au and find them in good agreement with previous estimates. We also discuss glycolaldehyde diffuse emission in Sgr B2(N), as opposite to emissions from methyl formate and acetic acid that appear to be concentrated in the compact region Sgr B2(N-LMH).