FORMATION AND RECONDENSATION OF COMPLEX ORGANIC MOLECULES DURING PROTOSTELLAR LUMINOSITY OUTBURSTS
Journal article, 2016
During the formation of stars, the accretion of surrounding material toward the central object is thought to undergo strong luminosity outbursts followed by long periods of relative quiescence, even at the early stages of star formation when the protostar is still embedded in a large envelope. We investigated the gas-phase formation and recondensation of the complex organic molecules (COMs) di-methyl ether and methyl formate, induced by sudden ice evaporation processes occurring during luminosity outbursts of different amplitudes in protostellar envelopes. For this purpose, we updated a gas-phase chemical network forming COMs in which ammonia plays a key role. The model calculations presented here demonstrate that ion-molecule reactions alone could account for the observed presence of di-methyl ether and methyl formate in a large fraction of protostellar cores without recourse to grain-surface chemistry, although they depend on uncertain ice abundances and gas-phase reaction branching ratios. In spite of the short outburst timescales of about 100 years, abundance ratios of the considered species higher than 10% with respect to methanol are predicted during outbursts due to their low binding energies relative to water and methanol which delay their recondensation during cooling. Although the current luminosity of most embedded protostars would be too low to produce complex organics in the hot-core regions that are observable with current sub-millimetric interferometers, previous luminosity outburst events would induce the formation of COMs in extended regions of protostellar envelopes with sizes increasing by up to one order of magnitude.