Structure of photodissociation fronts in star-forming regions revealed by observations of high-J CO emission lines with Herschel [GA]

The morphology of bright photodissociation regions (PDRs) associated to massive star formation is a subject of active research. The presence of dense “clumps” that are immersed in a less dense interclump medium is often proposed to explain the difficulty of models to predict gas emission line intensities in these objects. Taking benefit from the Herschel data, we present a comprehensive view of the modeling of the CO rotational ladder in PDRs, including the high-J lines that trace warm molecular gas at PDR interfaces. We observed the 12CO and 13CO ladders in two prototypical PDRs, the Orion Bar and NGC 7023 NW using the three instruments onboard Herschel: PACS, SPIRE and HIFI. We also considered line emission from key species in the gas cooling (C+, O, H2) and other tracers of PDR edges such as OH, CH+ and HCO+. All the intensities were analyzed using the Meudon PDR code. A grid of models was run to explore the parameter space of only two parameters: thermal gas pressure and a global geometry scaling factor. We conclude that the emission in the high-J CO lines, (up to Jup=23 in the Orion Bar and Jup=19 in NGC 7023), can only originate from small structures (typically few 1e-3 pc thickness) at high thermal pressures (Pth~1e8 Kcm-3). The calculated intensities for the others tracers are consistent with the observations, with evidence for a more extended diffuse phase for C+. Herschel observations of high-J CO lines allow us to refine our understanding of the morphology of bright PDR edges, strongly supporting the presence of thin (typically the arcsecond at the distance of Orion) high-pressure interfaces. Compiling data from the literature, we found that the gas thermal pressure in these dense structures increases with the intensity of the FUV radiation field, following a trend in line with recent simulations that describe photoevaporation of the illuminated edge of molecular clouds.

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C. Joblin, E. Bron, C. Pinto, et. al.
Fri, 12 Jan 18

Comments: 20 pages, 10 figures