Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Abstract-Unveiling the chemistry of interstellar CH: Spectroscopy of the 2 THz N=2←1 ground state line

The methylidyne radical CH is commonly used as a proxy for H2 in the cold, neutral phase of the interstellar medium. The optical spectroscopy of CH is limited by interstellar extinction, whereas far-infrared observations provide an integral view through the Galaxy. While the HF ground state absorption, another H2 proxy in diffuse gas, frequently suffers from saturation, CH remains transparent both in spiral-arm crossings and high-mass star forming regions, turning this light hydride into a universal surrogate for H2. However, in slow shocks and in regions dissipating turbulence its abundance is expected to be enhanced by an endothermic production path, and the idea of a "canonical" CH abundance needs to be addressed. The N=21 ground state transition of CH at λ149μm has become accessible to high-resolution spectroscopy thanks to GREAT aboard SOFIA. Its unsaturated absorption and the absence of emission makes it an ideal candidate for the determination of column densities with a minimum of assumptions. Here we present an analysis of four sightlines towards distant, far-infrared bright Galactic star forming regions. If combined with the sub-millimeter line of CH at λ560μm, environments forming massive stars can be analyzed. For this we present a case study on the "proto-Trapezium" cluster W3 IRS5, and demonstrate that the sub-millimeter/far-infrared lines of CH reliably trace not only diffuse but also dense, molecular gas. While we confirm the global correlation between the column densities of HF and those of CH, clear signposts of an over-abundance of CH are observed towards lower densities. A quiescent ion-neutral chemistry alone cannot account for this over-abundance. Vortices forming in turbulent, diffuse gas may be the setting for an enhanced production path.

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