July 2005


The initial observation of methylamine (CH3NH2) was reported in back-to-back papers published in 1974 in the Astrophysical Journal by Kaifu et al. and Fourikis et al. The following description of the discovery are the reminiscences of Dr. Nicholas Fourikis:

Knowing that Japan had several world-class spectroscopists, I sent the frequency coverage of the Parkes Radiotelescope receivers to Dr Masaki Morimoto and asked him to consult with them. I was specifically interested in transitions of methylamine, that fell within the bandwidth of our receivers. Methylamine is the terminal product of the hydrogenation series based on the cyanide radical, hydrogen cyanide and methanimine, interstellar species already discovered.

During a brief visit to Australia, Masaki and I decided to search for the 2-1 transition of methylamine after consultations he had with Dr Kojiro Takagi of Toyama University. In March 1974 I detected the transition we were interested in during an observing period I had at Parkes. The detection was possible because the two states of the molecule, 202 and 110, are inverted.

When I communicated our discovery to Masaki, he informed me that members of the Tokyo Astronomical Observatory detected two mm-wave transitions of methylamine using the Mitaka 6m radiotelescope and the 11m Kitt Peak radiotelescope. After many considerations, we decided that they publish their detections in a separate paper. Naturally I insisted that K Takagi who was at the time at Rice University, Houston, Texas be my co-author together with M Morimoto and the two papers appeared back to back in the Astrophysical Journal Letters.

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