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Ground-Based Observations of Interstellar Ice Formation in Anticipation for JWST

Presentation #135.02 in the session Molecular Cloud Chemistry.

Published onJun 29, 2022
Ground-Based Observations of Interstellar Ice Formation in Anticipation for JWST

The conditions in cold (T~10K), dense (n>105 cm-3) molecular cores allow for the growth of ices and the formation of complex organic molecules (COMs) on the surfaces of cold dust grains at the earliest star forming stages. The icy mantles play an essential role in building planetesimals, and some organic molecules may survive the harsh planetary formation process. It is difficult to fully constrain the formation process of ices in pre-stellar cores from ground-based observations due to the Earth’s atmosphere, but there are critical windows in the near-infrared that can be used effectively. From laboratory work, we know that COMs can form through the hydrogenation of CO ice, enabling the formation of methanol (CH3OH) and subsequent COMs. Utilizing the exquisite conditions on Maunakea (Hawaii), we have initiated a study using the NASA Infrared Telescope Facility (IRTF) and the Gemini North Observatory to study ice abundances in these dense cores. By simultaneously measuring H2O (3.0 μm), CO (4.67 μm), and CH3OH (3.53 μm) ice abundances through lines-of-sight through dense molecular cores we can begin to constrain the early COM formation process. Much of this work will build the foundation for upcoming observations with the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST). We will highlight some of the newest results from the ground-based observation efforts and link them to the upcoming JWST Cycle 1 Guaranteed Time Observations (GTO) and GO programs aimed at understanding the interplay between ice formation and grain growth.

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