The ALMA-PILS survey: first detection of methyl isocyanide (CH$_3$NC) in a solar-type protostar

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Methyl isocyanide (CH$_3$NC) is the isocyanide with the largest number of atoms confirmed in the interstellar medium (ISM), but it is not an abundant molecule, having only been detected towards a handful of objects. Conversely, its isomer, methyl cyanide (CH$_3$CN), is one of the most abundant complex organic molecules detected in the ISM, with detections in a variety of low- and high-mass sources. We use ALMA observations from the Protostellar Interferometric Line Survey (PILS) to search for methyl isocyanide and compare its abundance with that of its isomer methyl cyanide. We use a new line catalogue from the Cologne Database for Molecular Spectroscopy (CDMS) to identify methyl isocyanide lines. We also model the chemistry with an updated version of the three-phase chemical kinetics model {\em MAGICKAL}, presenting the first chemical modelling of methyl isocyanide to date. We detect methyl isocyanide for the first time in a solar-type protostar, IRAS 16293$-$2422 B, and present upper limits for its companion protostar, IRAS 16293$-$2422 A. Methyl isocyanide is found to be at least 20 times more abundant in source B compared to source A, with a CH$_3$CN/CH$_3$NC abundance ratio of 200 in IRAS 16293--2422 B and >5517 in IRAS 16293$-$2422 A. We also present the results of a chemical model of methyl isocyanide chemistry in both sources, and discuss the implications on methyl isocyanide formation mechanisms and the relative evolutionary stages of both sources.

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The weak perpendicular bands of the low-frequency fundamental bands ν8 and ν7 of CH3NC were measured in a long path cell with a high-resolution Fourier transform spectrometer. Analysis of the ν8 band shows its origin to be at ν0 = 267.3173 cm−1, some 4.3 cm−1 higher than previous estimates that were based on an unresolved peak of the bunched-up Q branches seen in a low-resolution scan. The ν7 band, at ν0 = 1130.6588 cm−1, is slightly affected by Fermi resonance with the combination ν4 + ν8, whose band is observed just above ν7. On combining the observed ΔK = +1 transitions of ν−7 + ν−8 we reported recently, with the ΔK = −1 transitions of ν−8 and of the hot band ν−7 + ν−8 − ν−8 accompanying ν7, we have been able to obtain accurate values for the ground state rotational constant A0 = 5.247234(77) cm−1 and for the centrifugal distortion constant D0K = 8.5626(24) × 10−5 cm−1, which had never been experimentally determined. Accurate spectroscopic constants are also reported for the ν8, ν7, and ν4 + ν8 states.
A spectral survey of the W51 e1/e2 star-forming region at 84–115 GHz has yielded detections of 105 molecules and their isotopic species, from simple diatomic or triatomic molecules, such as CO, CS, HCN, up to complex organic compounds, such as CH3OCH3, CH3COCH3, and C2H5OOCH. Ninety-three lines that are absent from the Lovas list of molecular lines observed from space were detected, and approximately half of these were identified. A significant number of the detectedmolecules are typical for hot cores. These include the neutral molecules CH3OCHO, C2H5OH, CH3COCH3 etc., which are currently believed to exist in the gas phase only in hot cores and shock-heated gas. In addition, vibrationally excited SiO, C4H, HCN, l-C3H, HCCCN, CH3CN, CH3OH, H2O, and SO2 lines with upper-level temperatures of several hundred Kelvin were found. Such lines can arise only in hot gas with temperatures of the order of 100 K or higher. Apart from neutral molecules, various molecular ions were also detected. Some of these (N2H+, HCO+, HCS+) usually exist in molecular clouds with high visual extinctions A V . At the same time, the CF+ ion should be observed in photon-dominated regions with A V values of about unity or lower. An interesting result is the tentative detection of two molecules that have thus far been observed only in the atmospheres of late-type giant stars—MgCN and NaCN. This suggests that the conditions in the hottest W51 regions (probably, in the vicinities of protostars) are close to those in the atmospheres of giant stars. It would be desirable to search for other lines of these molecules to verify these tentative detections. Analysis of the radial velocities of the detected molecules suggests that the contribution from the e2 core dominates the emission of some O-bearing molecules (CH3OCHO, CH3CH2OH), while the contribution of the e1 core dominates the emission of some N-bearing molecules (e.g., CH3CH2CN). Thus, the molecular composition of the e2 core may be closer to the composition of the “Compact Ridge” in OMC-1, while the composition of the e1 core is closer to that for the “Hot Core” in the same cloud.
Calculations have been performed to determine the abundance ratio of the metastable isomer CH3NC to the stable isomer CH3CN in dense interstellar clouds. According to gas phase, ion-molecule treatments, these molecules are both synthesized via protonated ion precursors. We have calculated the ratio of the formation rates of the protonated precursor ions-- CH3NCH+ and CH3CNH+ --synthesized via the radiative association reaction between CH3+ and HCN, which is thought to the dominant formation process of the two isomeric ions. Our calculations, which involve both ab initio quantum chemistry and equilibrium determinations, lead to a predicted CH3NCH+/CH3CNH+ formation rate ratio between 0.1 and 0.4. If this ratio is maintained in the neutral species formed from the precursor ions, theory predicts a sizable abundance for methyl isocyanide (CH3NC) and lends credence to its tentative observation.
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