Rivilla, V. M., Martín Pintado, J., Jiménez Serra, I., Zeng, S., Martín, S., Armijos Abendano, J., Requeña Torres, M. A., Aladro, R., Riquelme, D. 2019. Abundant Z-cyanomethanimine in the interstellar medium: paving the way to the synthesis of adenine. Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society 483, 1, DOI: 10.1093/mnrasl/sly228
We report the first detection in the interstellar medium (ISM) of the Z-isomer of cyanomethanimine (HNCHCN), an HCN dimer proposed as precursor of adenine. We identified six transitions of Z-cyanomethanimine, along with five transitions of E-cyanomethanimine, using IRAM 30m observations towards the Galactic Centre quiescent molecular cloud G + 0.693. The Z-isomer has a column density of (2.0 +/- 0.6) x 10(14) cm(-2) and an abundance of 1.5×10(-9). The relative abundance ratio between the isomers is [Z/E]similar to 6. This value cannot be explained by the two chemical formation routes previously proposed (gas phase and grain surface), which predicts abundances ratios between 0.9 and 1.5. The observed [Z/E] ratio is in good agreement with thermodynamic equilibrium at the gas kinetic temperature (130-210 K). Since isomerization is not possible in the ISM, the two species may be formed at high temperature. New chemical models, including surface chemistry on dust grains and gas-phase reactions, should be explored to explain our findings. Whatever the formation mechanism, the high abundance of Z-HNCHCN shows that precursors of adenine are efficiently formed in the ISM.