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Tracing the formation of molecular clouds via [CII], [CI] and CO emission

Clark, Paul C. ORCID:, Glover, Simon C. O., Ragan, Sarah E. ORCID: and Cabral, Ana ORCID: 2019. Tracing the formation of molecular clouds via [CII], [CI] and CO emission. Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society 486 (4) , pp. 4622-4637. 10.1093/mnras/stz1119

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Our understanding of how molecular clouds form in the interstellar medium (ISM) would be greatly helped if we had a reliable observational tracer of the gas flows responsible for forming the clouds. Fine structure emission from singly ionized and neutral carbon ([C II], [C I]) and rotational line emission from CO are all observed to be associated with molecular clouds. However, it remains unclear whether any of these tracers can be used to study the inflow of gas on to an assembling cloud, or whether they primarily trace the cloud once it has already assembled. In this paper, we address this issue with the help of high-resolution simulations of molecular cloud formation that include a sophisticated treatment of the chemistry and thermal physics of the ISM. Our simulations demonstrate that both [C I] and CO emission trace gas that is predominantly molecular, with a density n ∼ 500–1000 cm−3, much larger than the density of the inflowing gas. [C II] traces lower density material (n ∼ 100 cm−3) that is mainly atomic at early times. A large fraction of the [C II] emission traces the same structures as the [C I] or CO emission, but some arises in the inflowing gas. Unfortunately, this emission is very faint and will be difficult to detect with current observational facilities, even for clouds situated in regions with an elevated interstellar radiation field.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Advanced Research Computing @ Cardiff (ARCCA)
Physics and Astronomy
Publisher: Oxford University Press
ISSN: 0035-8711
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 16 April 2019
Date of Acceptance: 9 April 2019
Last Modified: 12 Jul 2024 14:24

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