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2006ApJS..165..138W - Astrophys. J., Suppl. Ser., 165, 138-172 (2006/July-0)

VLT UVES observations of interstellar molecules and diffuse bands in the Magellanic clouds.


Abstract (from CDS):

We discuss the abundances of interstellar CH, CH+, and CN in the Magellanic Clouds, derived from spectra of seven SMC and 13 LMC stars obtained (mostly) with the VLT UVES. CH and/or CH+ have now been detected toward three SMC and nine LMC stars; CN is detected toward Sk 143 (SMC) and Sk -67 2 (LMC). These data represent nearly all the optical detections of these molecular species in interstellar media beyond the Milky Way. In the LMC, the CH/H2 ratio is comparable to that found for diffuse Galactic molecular clouds in four sight lines but is lower by factors of 2.5-4.0 in two others. In the SMC, the CH/H2ratio is comparable to the local Galactic value in one sight line but is lower by factors of 10-15 in two others. The abundance of CH in the Magellanic Clouds thus appears to depend on local physical conditions and not just on metallicity. In both the SMC and the LMC, the observed relationships between the column density of CH and those of CN, CH+, Na I, and K I are generally consistent with the trends observed in our Galaxy.

Using existing data for the rotational populations of H2in these sight lines, we estimate temperatures, radiation field strengths, and local hydrogen densities for the diffuse molecular gas. The inferred temperatures range from about 45 to 90 K, the radiation fields range from about 1 to 900 times the typical local Galactic field, and the densities (in most cases) lie between 100 and 600/cm3. Densities estimated from the observed N(CH), under the assumption that CH is produced via steady state gas-phase reactions, are considerably higher than those derived from H2. Much better agreement is found by assuming that the CH is made via the (still undetermined) process(es) responsible for the observed CH+. A significant fraction of the CH and CH+ in diffuse molecular material in the SMC and LMC may be produced in photon-dominated regions. The excitation temperature obtained from the populations of the two lowest CN rotational levels toward Sk -67 2 is quite consistent with the temperature of the cosmic microwave background radiation measured with COBE.

Toward most of our targets, the UVES spectra also reveal absorption at velocities corresponding to the Magellanic Clouds ISM from several of the strongest of the diffuse interstellar bands (DIBs; at 5780, 5797, and 6284 Å). On average, the three DIBs are weaker by factors of 7-9 (LMC) and about 20 (SMC), compared to those typically observed in Galactic sight lines with similar N(H I), presumably due to the lower metallicities and stronger radiation fields in the LMC and SMC. The three DIBs are also weaker (on average, but with some exceptions), by factors of order 2-6, relative to E(B-V), N(Na I), and N(K I) in the Magellanic Clouds. The detection of several of the so-called C2DIBs toward Sk 143 and Sk -67 2 with strengths similar to those in comparable Galactic sight lines, however, indicates that no single, uniform scaling factor (e.g., one related to metallicity) applies to all DIBs (or for all sight lines) in the Magellanic Clouds.

Abstract Copyright:

Journal keyword(s): Galaxies: ISM - ISM: Abundances - ISM: Lines and Bands - ISM: Molecules - Galaxies: Magellanic Clouds

Simbad objects: 39

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