EDP Sciences
Free access
Volume 394, Number 1, October IV 2002
Page(s) 275 - 284
Section Diffuse matter in space
DOI http://dx.doi.org/10.1051/0004-6361:20021125

A&A 394, 275-284 (2002)
DOI: 10.1051/0004-6361:20021125

The structure and stability of molecular cloud cores in external radiation fields

D. Galli1, M. Walmsley1 and J. Gonçalves1, 2

1  INAF-Osservatorio Astrofisico di Arcetri, Largo E. Fermi 5, 50125 Firenze, Italy
2  Centro de Astronomia e Astrofísica da Universidade de Lisboa, Tapada da Ajuda, 1349-018 Lisboa, Portugal

(Received 31 May 2002 / Accepted 1 August 2002 )

We have considered the thermal equilibrium in pre-protostellar cores in the approximation where the dust temperature is independent of interactions with the gas and where the gas is heated both by collisions with dust grains and ionization by cosmic rays. We have then used these results to study the stability of cores in hydrostatic equilibrium in the limit where thermal pressure dominates over magnetic field and turbulence. We compare the density distribution derived in this manner with results obtained in the isothermal case. We find that for cores with characteristics similar to those observed in nearby molecular clouds, the gas and dust temperatures are coupled in the core interior with densities above $\sim $ $3\times 10^4$ cm -3. As a consequence, one expects that the gas temperature like the dust temperature decreases towards the center of these objects. However, the regime where gas and dust temperatures are coupled coincides approximately with that in which CO and many other molecular species deplete onto dust grain surfaces. At larger radii and lower densities, the gas and dust temperatures decouple and the gas temperature tends to the value expected for cosmic ray heating alone. The density structure which one computes taking into account such deviations from isothermality are not greatly different from that expected for an isothermal Bonnor-Ebert sphere. It is impossible in the framework of these models to have a stable equilibrium core with mass above $\sim $$M_\odot$ and column density compatible with observed values ( $N_{\rm H} > 2\times 10^{22}$  $\hbox{{\rm cm}}^{-2}$ or $A_{\rm V} > 10$ mag). We conclude from this that observed high mass cores are either supported by magnetic field or turbulence or are already in a state of collapse. Lower mass cores on the other hand have stable states where thermal pressure alone provides support against gravitation and we conclude that the much studied object B68 may be in a state of stable equilibrium if the internal gas temperature is computed in self-consistent fashion. Finally we note that in molecular clouds such as Ophiuchus and Orion with high radiation fields and pressures, gas and dust temperatures are expected to be well coupled and hence in the absence of an internal heat source, one expects temperatures to decrease towards core centers and to be relatively high as compared to low pressure clouds like Taurus.

Key words: ISM: clouds, dust, extinction

Offprint request: M. Walmsley, walmsley@arcetri.astro.it

© ESO 2002