EDP Sciences
Free access
Volume 433, Number 3, April III 2005
Page(s) 997 - 1006
Section Interstellar and circumstellar matter
DOI http://dx.doi.org/10.1051/0004-6361:20041893

A&A 433, 997-1006 (2005)
DOI: 10.1051/0004-6361:20041893

Warm gas in the cold diffuse interstellar medium: Spectral signatures in the H $\mathsf{_2}$ pure rotational lines

E. Falgarone1, L. Verstraete2, G. Pineau des Forêts2 and P. Hily-Blant3

1  Laboratoire de Radioastronomie, LERMA, École Normale Supérieure, 24 rue Lhomond, 75231 Paris Cedex 05, France
    e-mail: edith@lra.ens.fr
2  Institut d'Astrophysique Spatiale, Bât. 121, Université de Paris XI, 91405 Orsay Cedex, France
    e-mail: Laurent.Verstraete@ias.u-psud.fr
3  IRAM, 300 rue de la Piscine, 38406 Grenoble, France

(Received 25 August 2004 / Accepted 3 December 2004)

We present ISO-SWS observations of five pure rotational lines of $\rm H_2$ along a line of sight through the Galaxy which avoids regions of massive star formation. It samples 30 mag of gas, half of it (i.e.  15 mag) being diffuse gas running from the solar neighbourhood to the molecular ring, up to the far side of the Galaxy. The intensities of the S(1) and S(2) lines are too large relative to S(0) to be produced by UV excitation in the known radiation field of the Galaxy. The excitation of these transitions has to tap a more powerful source of energy. We investigate the possibility that it takes place in a large number of magneto-hydrodynamic (MHD) shocks or coherent small-scale vortices, two processes responsible for the intermittent dissipation of MHD turbulence. These dissipation bursts locally and temporarily heat the diffuse gas to temperatures ( $T_k \sim 10^3$ K) well above that of the ambient diffuse gas. We compute the spectroscopic signatures of these processes in the $\rm H_2$ lines. Not only are the computed relative line intensities in good agreement with the observations, but the few percent of warm gas involved is consistent with other independent determinations. We find that the fraction of warm $\rm H_2$ in the diffuse gas (i.e.  $\rm H_2$ molecules in $J_u \geq 3$ levels) on that line of sight, $N({\rm H_2}^*)/A_{\rm v} \approx 4 \times 10^{17}{\,{\rm cm}^{-2}}\, {\rm mag}^{-1}$, is the same as that found from far UV spectroscopy in the direction of nearby stars. It is also the same as that estimated in the solar neighbourhood to reproduce the large observed abundances of molecules like $\rm CH^+$.

These results suggest that the existence, within the cold neutral medium (CNM), of a few percent of warm gas, for which UV photons cannot be the sole heating source, is ubiquitous and presumably traces the intermittent dissipation of MHD turbulence in the cold diffuse gas.

Key words: turbulence -- ISM: molecules -- ISM: general -- infrared: ISM -- ISM: evolution -- Galaxy: general

SIMBAD Objects

© ESO 2005