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Desorption of hot molecules from photon irradiated interstellar ices

Thrower, J.D. and Burke, D.J. and Collings, M.P. and Dawes, A. and Holtom, P.D. and Jamme, F. and Kendall, P. and Fraser, H.J. (2008) Desorption of hot molecules from photon irradiated interstellar ices. Astrophysical Journal, 673. pp. 1233-1239. ISSN 0004-637X

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We present experimental measurements of photodesorption from ices of astrophysical relevance. Layers of benzene and water ice were irradiated with a laser tuned to an electronic transition in the benzene molecule. The translational energy of desorbed molecules was measured by time-of-flight (ToF) mass spectrometry. Three distinct photodesorption processes were identified: a direct adsorbate-mediated desorption producing benzene molecules with a translational temperature of around 1200 K, an indirect adsorbate-mediated desorption resulting in water molecules with a translational temperature of around 450 K, and a substrate-mediated desorption of both benzene and water producing molecules with translational temperatures of around 530 and 450 K, respectively. The translational temperature of each population of desorbed molecules is well above the temperature of the ice matrix. The implications for gas-phase chemistry in the interstellar medium are discussed.