N. F. W. Ligterink's research while affiliated with Planetary Science Institute and other places

Publications (70)

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[Abridged] Observations of protoplanetary disks suggest that they are depleted in gas-phase CO. It has been posed that gas-phase CO is chemically consumed and converted into less volatile species through gas-grain processes. Observations of interstellar ices reveal a CO$_2$ component within H$_2$O ice suggesting co-formation. The aim of this work i...
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No statistical study of COMs toward a large sample of high-mass protostars with ALMA has been carried out so far. We aim to study six N-bearing species: CH$_3$CN, HNCO, NH$_2$CHO, C$_2$H$_5$CN, C$_2$H$_3$CN and CH$_3$NH$_2$ in a large sample of high-mass protostars. From the ALMAGAL survey, 37 of the most line-rich hot molecular cores are selected....
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Spectroscopic instruments were a part of payloads on orbiter and lander missions and delivered vast data sets to explore minerals, elements and molecules on air-less rocky planets, asteroids and comets on global and local scales. To answer current space science questions, the chemical composition of planetary rocks and soils at grain scale is requi...
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The behaviour of molecules in space is to a large extent governed by where they freeze out or sublimate. The molecular binding energy is thus an important parameter for many astrochemical studies. This parameter is usually determined with time-consuming experiments, computationally expensive quantum chemical calculations, or the inexpensive, but in...
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Recent and past observations of chemical and physical peculiarities in the atmosphere of Venus have renewed speculations about the existence of life in its clouds. To find signs of Venusian life, a dedicated astrobiological space exploration mission is required, and for this reason the Venus Life Finder mission is currently being prepared. A Venus...
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The detection of biomolecules on Solar System bodies can help us to understand how life emerged on Earth and how life may be distributed in our Solar System. However, the detection of chemical signatures of life on planets or their moons is challenging. A variety of parameters must be considered, such as a suited landing site location, geological a...
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Extraction of useful information from unstructured, large and complex mass spectrometric signals is a challenge in many application fields of mass spectrometry. Therefore, new data analysis approaches are required to help uncover the complexity of such signals. In this contribution, we examined the chemical composition of the 1.88 Ga Gunflint chert...
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The investigation of chemical composition on planetary bodies without significant sample processing is of importance for nearly every mission aimed at robotic exploration. Moreover, it is a necessary tool to achieve the longstanding goal of finding evidence of life beyond Earth, for example, possibly preserved microbial remains within martian sedim...
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This work aims to constrain the abundances of interstellar amides, by searching for this group of prebiotic molecules in the intermediate-mass protostar Serpens SMM1-a. ALMA observations are conducted toward Serpens SMM1. A spectrum is extracted toward the SMM1-a position and analyzed with the CASSIS line analysis software for the presence of chara...
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Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) are found on various planetary surfaces in the solar system. They are proposed to play a role in the emergence of life, as molecules that are important for biological processes could be derived from them. In this work, four PAHs (pyrene, perylene, anthracene, and coronene) were measured using the ORganics Inf...
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Laser Ablation Ionisation Mass Spectrometry (LIMS) is an important quantitative method for chemical analysis of solids. Current limits of detections (LoDs) of LIMS instruments are in the ppm to sub-ppm range (atomic fractions), while other commonly used techniques for solid sample analysis reach LoDs at ppb levels or even below. This study presents...
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In this contribution, we present results of non-linear dimensionality reduction and classification of the fs laser ablation ionization mass spectrometry (LIMS) imaging dataset acquired from the Precambrian Gunflint chert (1.88 Ga) using a miniature time-of-flight mass spectrometer developed for in situ space applications. We discuss the data genera...
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Laser ablation is a highly suitable and widely applied technique for direct sampling of solid materials. The Laser Mass Spectrometer – Gran Turismo (LMS-GT), a Femtosecond Laser Ablation Ionization Time-of-Flight Mass Spectrometer with a mass resolution exceeding 10,000 (m/Δm at full-width half-maximum), was recently developed at the University of...
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Context. The chemical inventory of planets is determined by the physical and chemical processes that govern the early phases of star formation. Nitrogen-bearing species are of interest as many provide crucial precursors in the formation of life-related matter. Aims. The aim is to investigate nitrogen-bearing complex organic molecules towards two de...
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The chemical inventory of planets is determined by the physical and chemical processes that govern the early phases of star formation. The aim is to investigate N-bearing complex organic molecules towards two Class 0 protostars (B1-c and S68N) at millimetre wavelengths with ALMA. Next, the results of the detected N-bearing species are compared with...
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Rationale: Femtosecond laser ablation ion sources have allowed for improved measurement capabilities and figures of merit of laser ablation based spectroscopic and mass spectrometric measurement techniques. However, in comparison to longer pulse laser systems, the ablation plume from fs lasers is observed to be colder, which favors the formation o...
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The last decade witnessed considerable progress in the development of laser ablation/ionisation time-of-flight mass spectrometry (LI-TOFMS). The improvement of both the laser ablation ion sources employing femtosecond lasers and the method of ion coupling with the mass analyser led to highly sensitive element and isotope measurements, minimisation...
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Aims. Methyl isocyanate (CH 3 NCO) and glycolonitrile (HOCH 2 CN) are isomers and prebiotic molecules that are involved in the formation of peptide structures and the nucleobase adenine, respectively. These two species are investigated to study the interstellar chemistry of cyanides (CN) and isocyanates (NCO) and to gain insight into the reservoir...
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Methyl isocyanate (CH$_{3}$NCO) and glycolonitrile (HOCH$_{2}$CN) are isomers and prebiotic molecules that are involved in the formation of peptide structures and the nucleobase adenine, respectively. ALMA observations of the intermediate-mass Class 0 protostar Serpens SMM1-a and ALMA-PILS data of the low-mass Class 0 protostar IRAS~16293B are used...
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Amide molecules produced in space could play a key role in the formation of biomolecules on a young planetary object. However, the formation and chemical network of amide molecules in space is not well understood. In this work, Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array observations are used to study a number of amide(-like) molecules toward the...
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The identification of extraterrestrial life is one the most exciting and challenging endeavors in space research. The existence of extinct or extant life can be inferred from biogenic elements, isotopes, and molecules, but accurate and sensitive instruments are needed. In this whitepaper we show that Laser-based Mass Spectrometers are promising ins...
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Amide molecules produced in space could play a key role in the formation of biomolecules on a young planetary object. However, the formation and chemical network of amide molecules in space is not well understood. In this work, ALMA observations are used to study a number of amide(-like) molecules toward the high-mass star-forming region NGC 6334I....
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Context. Complex organic molecules with three carbon atoms are found in the earliest stages of star formation. In particular, propenal (C 2 H 3 CHO) is a species of interest due to its implication in the formation of more complex species and even biotic molecules. Aims. This study aims to search for the presence of C 2 H 3 CHO and other three-carbo...
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Context. Complex organic molecules with three carbon atoms are found in the earliest stages of star formation. In particular, propenal (C 2 H 3 CHO) is a species of interest due to its implication in the formation of more complex species and even biotic molecules. Aims. This study aims to search for the presence of C 2 H 3 CHO and other three-carbo...
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Complex organic molecules with three carbon atoms are found in the earliest stages of star formation. In particular, propenal (C$_2$H$_3$CHO) is a species of interest due to its implication in the formation of more complex species and even biotic molecules. This study aims to search for the presence of C$_2$H$_3$CHO and other three-carbon species s...
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For the last four decades space exploration missions have searched for molecular life on planetary surfaces beyond Earth. Often pyrolysis gas chromatography mass spectrometry has been used as payload on such space exploration missions. These instruments have relatively low detection sensitivity and their measurements are often undermined by the pre...
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RATIONALE: Laser ablation combined with mass spectrometry forms a promising tool for chemical depth profiling of solids. At irradiations near the ablation threshold, high depth resolutions are achieved. However, at these conditions, a large fraction of ablated species is neutral and therefore invisible to the instrument. To compensate for this effe...
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Context. Complex organic molecules are detected in many sources in the warm inner regions of envelopes surrounding deeply embedded protostars. Exactly how these species form remains an open question. Aims. This study aims to constrain the formation of complex organic molecules through comparisons of their abundances towards the Class 0 protostellar...
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Complex organic molecules (COM) are detected in many sources in the warm inner regions of envelopes surrounding deeply embedded protostars. Exactly how these COM form remains an open question. This study aims to constrain the formation of complex organic molecules through comparisons of their abundances towards the Class 0 protostellar binary IRAS...
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Context. Propyne (CH 3 CCH), also known as methyl acetylene, has been detected in a variety of environments, from Galactic star-forming regions to extragalactic sources. These molecules are excellent tracers of the physical conditions in star-forming regions, allowing the temperature and density conditions surrounding a forming star to be determine...
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Context. Propyne (CH$_3$CCH) has been detected in a variety of environments, from Galactic star-forming regions to extragalactic sources. Such molecules are excellent tracers of the physical conditions in star-forming regions. Aims. This study explores the emission of CH$_3$CCH in the low-mass protostellar binary, IRAS 16293$-$2422, examining the s...
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In this contribution we present the design and first measurement results obtained with a new high-performance laser ablation and ionisation (LIMS) mass spectrometer for solid sample analysis named “LMS-GT”, combining high mass resolution and high spatial resolution. The instrument consists of a fs-laser ablation ion source coupled to a time-of flig...
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Context. The chemical composition of high-mass protostars reflects the physical evolution associated with different stages of star formation. In addition, the spatial distribution and velocity structure of different molecular species provide valuable information on the physical structure of these embedded objects. Despite an increasing number of in...
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The chemical composition of high-mass protostars reflects the physical evolution associated with different stages of star formation. In this study, the molecular inventory of the forming high-mass star AFGL 4176 is studied in detail at high angular resolution (~0.35 arcsec) using ALMA. This high resolution makes it possible to separate the emission...
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The emergence of life on Earth may have its origin in organic molecules formed in the interstellar medium. Molecules with amide and isocyanate groups resemble structures found in peptides and nucleobases and are necessary for their formation. Their formation is expected to take place in the solid state, on icy dust grains, and is studied here by fa...
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The identification of complex organic molecules, COMs, in inter- and circumstellar gas phase environments is steadily increasing. The formation of such COMs takes largely place on the icy dust grains, as has been shown in recent laboratory studies. Until now solid state features of smaller molecular species have been directly identified in these en...
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Nitrogen oxides are thought to play a significant role as a nitrogen reservoir and to potentially participate in the formation of more complex species. Until now, only NO, NO, and HNO have been detected in the interstellar medium. We report the first interstellar detection of nitrous acid (HONO). Twelve lines were identified towards component B of...
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Nitrogen oxides are thought to play a significant role as a nitrogen reservoir and to potentially participate in the formation of more complex species. Until now, only NO, N$_2$O and HNO have been detected in the interstellar medium. We report the first interstellar detection of nitrous acid (HONO). Twelve lines were identified towards component B...
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Context. In the search for the building blocks of life, nitrogen-bearing molecules are of particular interest since nitrogen-containing bonds are essential for the linking of amino acids and ultimately the formation of larger biological structures. The elusive molecule methylamine (CH 3 NH 2 ) is thought to be a key pre-biotic species but has so fa...
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In the search for the building blocks of life, nitrogen-bearing molecules are of particular interest since nitrogen-containing bonds are essential for the linking of amino acids and ultimately the formation of larger biological structures. The elusive molecule methylamine (CH$_3$NH$_2$) is thought to be a key pre-biotic species but has so far only...
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Studies of deuterated isotopologues of complex organic molecules can provide important constraints on their origin in star formation regions. In particular, the abundances of deuterated species are very sensitive to the physical conditions in the environment where they form. Because the temperatures in star formation regions are low, these isotopol...
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Studies of deuterated isotopologues of complex organic molecules can provide important constraints on their origin in regions of star formation. In particular, the abundances of deuterated species are very sensitive to the physical conditions in the environment where they form. Due to the low temperatures in regions of star formation, these isotopo...
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Molecules with an amide functional group resemble peptide bonds, the molecular bridges that connect amino acids, and may thus be relevant in processes that lead to the formation of life. In this study, the solid state formation of some of the smallest amides is investigated in the laboratory. To this end, CH4:HNCO ice mixtures at 20 K are irradiate...
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Context. Hydroxylamine (NH 2 OH) and methylamine (CH 3 NH 2 ) have both been suggested as precursors to the formation of amino acids and are therefore, of interest to prebiotic chemistry. Their presence in interstellar space and formation mechanisms, however, are not well established. Aims. We aim to detect both amines and their potential precursor...
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Molecules with an amide functional group resemble peptide bonds, the molecular bridges that connect amino acids, and may thus be relevant in processes that lead to the formation of life. In this study, the solid state formation of some of the smallest amides is investigated in the laboratory. To this end, CH$_{4}$:HNCO ice mixtures at 20 K are irra...
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Hydroxylamine (NH$_{2}$OH) and methylamine (CH$_{3}$NH$_{2}$) have both been suggested as precursors to the formation of amino acids and are therefore of interest to prebiotic chemistry. Their presence in interstellar space and formation mechanisms, however, are not well established. We aim to detect both amines and their potential precursor molecu...
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Context. Methyl isocyanide (CH 3 NC) is the isocyanide with the largest number of atoms confirmed in the interstellar medium (ISM), but it is not an abundant molecule, having only been detected towards a handful of objects. Conversely, its isomer, methyl cyanide (CH 3 CN), is one of the most abundant complex organic molecules detected in the ISM, w...
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Methyl isocyanide (CH$_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 det...
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Recent measurements carried out at comet 67P/C-G with the ${\it Rosetta}$ probe revealed that molecular oxygen, O$_2$, is the fourth most abundant molecule in comets. Models show that O$_2$ is likely of primordial nature, coming from the interstellar cloud from which our Solar System was formed. However, gaseous O$_2$ is an elusive molecule in the...
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Context . The abundance of deuterated molecules in a star-forming region is sensitive to the environment in which they are formed. Deuteration fractions, in other words the ratio of a species containing D to its hydrogenated counterpart, therefore provide a powerful tool for studying the physical and chemical evolution of a star-forming system. Whi...
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Context. Cometary ices are formed during star and planet formation, and their molecular and elemental makeup can be related to the early solar system via the study of inter- and protostellar material. Aims. We set out to place the first observational constraints on the interstellar gas-phase abundance of bromine (Br). We further aim to compare the...
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Context. Methanol is formed via surface reactions on icy dust grains. Methanol is also detected in the gas-phase at temperatures below its thermal desorption temperature and at levels higher than can be explained by pure gas-phase chemistry. The process that controls the transition from solid state to gas-phase methanol in cold environments is not...
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Searches for the prebiotically-relevant cyanamide (NH$_2$CN) towards solar-type protostars have not been reported in the literature. We here present the first detection of this species in the warm gas surrounding two solar-type protostars, using data from the Atacama Large Millimeter/Submillimeter Array Protostellar Interferometric Line Survey (PIL...
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Context. The number of identified complex organic molecules (COMs) in inter- and circumstellar gas-phase environments is steadily increasing. Recent laboratory studies show that many such species form on icy dust grains. At present only smaller molecular species have been directly identified in space in the solid state. Accurate spectroscopic labor...
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Organohalogens, a class of molecules that contain at least one halogen atom bonded to carbon, are abundant on the Earth where they are mainly produced through industrial and biological processes ¹. Consequently, they have been proposed as biomarkers in the search for life on exoplanets ². Simple halogen hydrides have been detected in interstellar s...
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Methyl isocyanate (CH$_{3}$NCO) belongs to a select group of interstellar molecules considered to be relevant precursors in the formation of larger organic compounds, including those with peptide bonds. The molecule has only been detected in a couple of high-mass protostars and potentially in comets. A formation route on icy grains has been postula...
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Methyl isocyanate (CH 3 NCO) belongs to a select group of peptide-like prebiotic molecules. In this paper we present its first detection toward the solar type low-mass protostar IRAS16293-2422 (hereafter IRAS16293). CH 3 NCO is detected towards IRAS16293 as a warm component with T ex > 100 K and HNCO/CH 3 NCO ∼4-12. Also, its grain surface formatio...
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Understanding disk evolution and dissipation is essential for studies of planet formation. Transition disks, i.e., disks with large dust cavities and gaps, are promising candidates of active evolution. About two dozen SED-selected candidates have been confirmed to have dust cavities through millimeter interferometric imaging, but this sample is bia...
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Wavelength-dependent photodesorption rates have been determined using synchrotron radiation for condensed pure and mixed methanol ice in the 7–14 eV range. The VUV photodesorption of intact methanol molecules from pure methanol ices is found to be of the order of 10−5 molecules/photon, that is two orders of magnitude below what is generally used in...
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Context. Microwave discharge hydrogen-flow lamps have been used for more than half a century to simulate interstellar ultraviolet radiation fields in the laboratory. Recent discrepancies between identical measurements in different laboratories, as well as clear wavelength dependent results obtained in monochromatic (synchrotron) experiments, hint a...
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Interstellar polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) are expected to be strongly processed by vacuum ultraviolet photons. Here, we report experimental studies on the ionization and fragmentation of coronene (C24H12), ovalene (C32H14) and hexa-peri-hexabenzocoronene (HBC; C42H18) cations by exposure to synchrotron radiation in the range of 8--40 eV....
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We aim to detect methylamine, CH$_{3}$NH$_{2}$, in a variety of hot cores and use it as a test for the importance of photon-induced chemistry in ice mantles and mobility of radicals. Specifically, CH$_3$NH$_2$ cannot be formed from atom addition to CO whereas other NH$_2$-containing molecules such as formamide, NH$_2$CHO, can. Submillimeter spectra...