Effects of grain growth mechanisms on the extinction curve and the metal depletion in the interstellar medium [GA]


Dust grains grow their sizes in the interstellar clouds (especially in molecular clouds) by accretion and coagulation. Here we model and test these processes by examining the consistency with the observed variation of the extinction curves in the Milky Way. We find that, if we simply use the parameters used in previous studies, the model fails to explain the flattening of far-UV extinction curve for large $R_V$ (flatness of optical extinction curve) and the existence of carbon bump even in flat extinction curves. This discrepancy is resolved by adopting a `tuned’ model, in which coagulation of carbonaceous dust is less efficient (by a factor of 2) and that of silicate is more efficient with the coagulation threshold removed. The tuned model is also consistent with the relation between silicon depletion (indicator of accretion) and $R_V$ if the duration of accretion and coagulation is >100(n_H/10^3 cm^{-3})^{-1} Myr, where n_H is the number density of hydrogen nuclei in the cloud. We also examine the relations between each of the extinction curve features (UV slope, far-UV curvature, and carbon bump strength) and $R_V$. The correlation between UV slope and $R_V$, which is the strongest among the three correlations, is well reproduced by the tuned model. For far-UV curvature and carbon bump strength, the observational data are located between the tuned model and the original model without tuning, implying that the large scatters in the observational data can be explained by the sensitive response to the coagulation efficiency. The overall success of the tuned model indicates that accretion and coagulation are promising mechanisms of producing the variation of extinction curves in the Milky Way, although we do not exclude possibilities of other dust-processing mechanisms changing extinction curves.

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Date added: Fri, 18 Oct 13