April 2015

Urea

The tentative detection of urea, (NH2)2CO, was reported in 2014 in the Large Molecule Heimat region of Sgr B2(N) toward the center of the galaxy by Remijan et al. The observations were made with a concerted effort involving five observatories: CARMA, the 12-m telescope at the Arizona Radio Observatory, the IRAM 30-m telescope, the Swedish-ESO 15-m telescope, and the BIMA array. The last two facilities have been decommisioned and supeceded by CARMA.

Urea (also known as carbamide) is well-known in terrestrial chemistry and biochemistry, where it is the main final byproduct of breaking down proteins in metabolism in mammals. It is used as a soil fertilizer and a plastic feedstock. With its pair of NH2 amine groups, urea is a cousin of other symmetric R1=R2 carbonyl astromolecules such as formaldehyde (R1=R2=H) and acetone (R1=R2=CH3).


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