We study the chemical evolution of H2O:CO:NH3 ice mixtures irradiated with soft X-rays, in the range 250−1250 eV. We identify many nitrogen-bearing molecules such as e.g., OCN−, NH+4 , HNCO, CH3CN, HCONH2, and NH2COCONH2. Several infrared features are compatible with glycine or its isomers.
During the irradiation, we detected through mass spectroscopy many species desorbing the ice. Such findings support either the infrared identifications and reveal less abundant species with not clear infrared features. Among them, m/z = 57 has been ascribed to methyl isocyanate (CH3NCO), a molecule of prebiotic relevance, recently detected in protostellar environments.
During the warm up after the irradiation, several infrared features including 2168 cm−1 band of OCN−, 1690 cm−1 band of formamide, and the 1590 cm−1 band associated to three different species, HCOO−, CH3NH2 and NH+3 CH2COO survive up to room temperature. Interestingly, many high masses have been also detected. Possible candidates are methyl-formate, (m/z = 60, HCOOCH3), ethanediamide (m/z = 88, NH2COCONH2), and N-acetyl-L-aspartic acid (m/z = 175). This latter species is compatible with the presence of the m/z = 43, 70 and 80 fragments.
Photo-desorption of organics is relevant for the detection of such species in the gas-phase of cold environments, where organic synthesis in ice mantles should dominate. We estimate the gas-phase enrichment of some selected species in the light of a protoplanetary disc model around young solar-type stars.