Detection of glycolaldehyde toward the solar-type protostar NGC 1333 IRAS2A

Astronomy & Astrophysics, 576, A5

Glycolaldehyde is a key molecule in the formation of biologically relevant molecules such as ribose. We report its detection with the Plateau de Bure interferometer toward the Class 0 young stellar object NGC 1333 IRAS2A, which is only the second solar-type protostar for which this prebiotic molecule is detected. Local thermodynamic equilibrium analyses of glycolaldehyde, ethylene glycol (the reduced alcohol of glycolaldehyde), and methyl formate (the most abundant isomer of glycolaldehyde) were carried out. The relative abundance of ethylene glycol to glycolaldehyde is found to be ~5 – higher than in the Class 0 source IRAS 16293-2422 (~1), but similar to the lower limits derived in comets (≥3–6). The different ethylene glycol-to-glycolaldehyde ratios in the two protostars might be related to different CH3OH:CO compositions of the icy grain mantles. In particular, a more efficient hydrogenation on the grains in NGC 1333 IRAS2A would favor the formation of both methanol and ethylene glycol. In conclusion, it is possible that like NGC 1333 IRAS2A, other low-mass protostars show high ethylene glycol-to-glycolaldehyde abundance ratios. The cometary ratios might consequently be inherited from earlier stages of star formation if the young Sun experienced conditions similar to NGC 1333 IRAS2A.