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Survival of gas phase amino acids and nucleobases in space radiation conditions

Abstract

We present experimental studies on the photoionization and photodissociation processes (photodestruction) of gaseous amino acids and nucleobases in interstellar and interpla-netary radiation analogs conditions. The measurements have been undertaken at the Brazilian Synchrotron Light Laboratory (LNLS), employing vacuum ultraviolet (VUV) and soft X-ray photons. The experimental set up basically consists of a time-of-flight mass spectrometer kept under high vacuum conditions. Mass spectra were obtained using a photoelectron photoion coincidence technique. We have shown that the amino acids are effectively more destroyed (up to 70–80%) by the stellar radiation than the nucleobases, mainly in the VUV. Since polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons have the same survival capability and seem to be ubiquitous in the ISM, it is not unreasonable to predict that nucleobases could survive in the interstellar medium and/or in comets, even as a stable cation.

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