Detection of a new interstellar molecule: Thiocyanic acid HSCN

D. T. Halfen, L. M. Ziurys, S. Brünken, C. A. Gottlieb, M. C. McCarthy, P. Thaddeus

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58 Scopus citations


A new interstellar molecule, HSCN (thiocyanic acid), an energetic isomer of the well-known species HNCS, has been detected toward Sgr B2(N) with the Arizona Radio Observatory 12 m telescope. Eight rotational transitions in the Ka = 0 ladder were observed in the 2 mm and 3 mm bands. Five consecutive transitions in the 3 mm band are unblended, but three in the 2 mm band are partially masked by lines of other molecules. The peak intensity of all eight transitions are well described by a rotational temperature that is in very good agreement with that of many other molecules in this source. The line width and radial velocity of HSCN match closely with those of the ground state isomer HNCS (isothiocyanic acid), HNCO (isocyanic acid), and HOCN (cyanic acid); preliminary maps indicate that all four molecules are similarly distributed in Sgr B2. Although HSCN is calculated to lie over 3000 K higher in energy than HNCS, its column density of 1.3 × 1013 cm-2 in Sgr B2(N) is only three times lower than that of HNCS. The fractional abundances of HSCN and HNCS relative to H2 are 4.5 × 10-12 and 1.1 × 10-11. By analogy with the isomeric pair HCN and HNC, these two sulfur-bearing isomers are plausibly formed from a common cation precursor.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)L124-L127
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number2 PART 2
StatePublished - 2009


  • ISM: individual (Sgr B2)
  • ISM: molecules
  • Line: identification
  • Molecular processes
  • Radio lines: ISM

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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