Photochemistry and desorption induced by X-rays in water rich astrophysical ice analogs: implications for the moon Enceladus and other frozen space environments
Soft X-rays are an important agent for chemical processing in the Solar System and in the interstellar medium. The photolysis and photodesorption processes of H2O-rich ices triggered by soft X-rays was, experimentally, addressed in this paper. The experiments were performed at the Brazilian synchrotron facility LNLS/CNPEN employing broadband radiation (from 6 to 2000 eV; mainly soft X-rays and a small fraction of VUV) in solid samples at temperatures of 20 and 80 K. The icy samples were monitored by infrared spectroscopy. We determined the effective destruction cross section (in the order 10−18 cm2) as well as the formation cross section for the new species produced after the irradiation. Among them, we list OCN−, CO, CO3, CH3OH, H2O2, HCOO−, NH4+, HCONH2 and CH3HCO, mostly formed in the experiment at 80 K. The chemical equilibrium stage was characterized and molecular abundances were quantified. In addition, we discuss a methodology to estimate the amount of unknown species in the ice produced by photolysis. The samples reach chemical equilibrium at fluences around 2–3 × 1018 cm−2. Timescales for reaching chemical equilibrium in space environments illuminated by X-rays were given, as well as the desorption yields induced by X-rays. The astrophysical implication on the surface chemistry and desorption processes at the moon Enceladus are provided.