July 2003

Ethylene Oxide

Ethylene oxide (c-C2H4O) was initially detected in 1997 by Dickens et al. Unlike most known astromolecules, it has a ring structure. In fact, three-membered rings are rare even in terrestrial chemistry due to the amount of strain involved. Ethylene oxide (or EtO) is an isomer of two more stable molecules, acetaldehyde (CH3CHO) and vinyl alcohol (CH2CHOH). EtO is an epoxide similar to other ethers but particularly reactive.

Like many astromolecules, EtO was identified in the interstellar medium by means of its characteristic rotational spectrum, which gives rise to transitions in the microwave region of the electromagnetic spectrum.

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