EDP Sciences
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Volume 435, Number 1, May III 2005
Page(s) 177 - 182
Section Interstellar and circumstellar matter
DOI http://dx.doi.org/10.1051/0004-6361:20042092

A&A 435, 177-182 (2005)
DOI: 10.1051/0004-6361:20042092

Molecular freeze-out as a tracer of the thermal and dynamical evolution of pre- and protostellar cores

J. K. Jørgensen1, F. L. Schöier2 and E. F. van Dishoeck1

1  Leiden Observatory, PO Box 9513, 2300 RA Leiden, The Netherlands
    e-mail: jjorgensen@cfa.harvard.edu
2  Stockholm Observatory, AlbaNova, 106 91 Stockholm, Sweden

(Received 17 May 2004 / Accepted 27 January 2005 )

Radiative transfer models of multi-transition observations are used to determine molecular abundances as functions of position in pre- and protostellar cores. The data require a "drop" abundance profile with radius, with high abundances in the outermost regions probed by low excitation 3 mm lines, and much lower abundances at intermediate zones probed by higher frequency lines. The results are illustrated by detailed analysis of CO and HCO+ lines for a subset of objects. We propose a scenario in which the molecules are frozen out in a region of the envelope where the temperature is low enough ($\la$40 K) to prevent immediate desorption, but where the density is high enough (>104-105 cm-3) that the freeze-out timescales are shorter than the lifetime of the core. The size of the freeze-out zone is thereby a record of the thermal and dynamical evolution of the cores. Fits to CO data for a sample of 16 objects indicate that the size of the freeze-out zone decreases significantly between class 0 and I objects, explaining the variations in, for example, CO abundances with envelope masses. However, the corresponding timescales are $10^{5\pm 0.5}$ years, with no significant difference between class 0 and I objects. These timescales suggest that the dense pre-stellar phase with heavy depletions lasts only a short time, of the order of 105 yr, in agreement with recent chemical-dynamical models.

Key words: stars: formation -- ISM: molecules -- ISM: abundances

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© ESO 2005

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