EDP Sciences
Free Access
Volume 456, Number 1, September II 2006
Page(s) 215 - 223
Section Interstellar and circumstellar matter
DOI https://doi.org/10.1051/0004-6361:20065375
Published online 23 August 2006

A&A 456, 215-223 (2006)
DOI: 10.1051/0004-6361:20065375

The abundances of nitrogen-containing molecules during pre-protostellar collapse

D. R. Flower1, G. Pineau des Forêts2, 3 and C. M. Walmsley4

1  Physics Department, The University, Durham DH1 3LE, UK
    e-mail: david.flower@durham.ac.uk
2  IAS (UMR 8617 du CNRS), Université de Paris-Sud, 91405 Orsay, France
3  LERMA (UMR 8112 du CNRS), Observatoire de Paris, 61 avenue de l'Observatoire, 75014 Paris, France
4  INAF, Osservatorio Astrofisico di Arcetri, Largo Enrico Fermi 5, 50125 Firenze, Italy

(Received 6 April 2006 / Accepted 5 June 2006 )

Aims.We have studied the chemistry of nitrogen-bearing species during the initial stages of protostellar collapse, with a view to explaining the observed longevity of N2H+ and NH3 and the high levels of deuteration of these species.
Methods.We followed the chemical evolution of a medium comprising gas and dust as it underwent free-fall gravitational collapse. Chemical processes which determine the relative populations of the nuclear spin states of molecules and molecular ions were included explicitly, as were reactions which lead ultimately to the deuteration of the nitrogen-containing species N2H+ and NH3. The freeze-out of "heavy" molecules on to dust grains was taken into account.
Results.We found that the timescale required for the nitrogen-containing species to attain their steady-state values was much larger than the free-fall time and even comparable with the probable lifetime of the precursor molecular cloud. However, it transpires that the chemical evolution of the gas during gravitational collapse is insensitive to its initial composition. If we suppose that the grain-sticking probabilities of atomic nitrogen and atomic oxygen are both less than unity ( $S \lesssim 0.3$), we find that the observed differential freeze-out of nitrogen- and carbon-bearing species can be reproduced by the model of free-fall collapse when a sufficiently large grain radius ( $a_{\rm g} \approx 0.50$ $\mu $m) is adopted. Furthermore, the results of our collapse model are consistent with the high levels of deuteration of N2H+ and NH3 which have been observed in L1544, for example, providing that $0.5 \lesssim a_{\rm g} \lesssim 1.0$ $\mu $m. We note that the ortho:para H2D+ ratio, and fractional abundance of ortho-H2D+, which is the observed form of H2D+, should be largest where ND3 is most abundant.

Key words: astrochemistry -- stars: formation -- ISM: dust, extinction -- ISM: molecules

© ESO 2006

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