Detection of interstellar PN: the first phosphorus-bearing species observed in molecular clouds.

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Phosphorus nitride (PN) has been detected in the interstellar medium. The J = 2-1, 3-2, 5-4, and 6-5 rotational lines of this species have been observed toward Orion-KL, and the J = 2-1 transition in Sgr B2 and W51. The PN line profiles in Orion indicate that the molecule's emission arises from the "plateau" or "doughnut" region associated with the outflow from IRc2. The species is thus primarily present in hot, dense gas. Column densities derived for PN toward Orion-KL are 3-4 X 10(13) cm-2, but may be as high as 10(14) cm-2, if the species is located in a 10" region. These column densities imply a fractional abundance for PN in the Orion "plateau" of approximately 1-4 X 10(-10). Such a large abundance for phosphorus nitride is not predicted by quiescent cloud ion-molecule chemistry and suggests that high-temperature processes are responsible for the synthesis of PN in the KL outflow.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)L81-85
JournalThe Astrophysical journal
Issue number1 Pt 2
StatePublished - Oct 1 1987


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science

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