Dissipative structures of diffuse molecular gas*
III. Small-scale intermittency of intense velocity-shears
IRAM, Domaine Universitaire, 300 rue de la Piscine, 38406 Saint-Martin-d'Hères, France e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
2 Laboratoire d'Astrophysique, Observatoire de Grenoble, BP 53, 38041 Grenoble Cedex 9, France
3 LRA/LERMA, UMR 8112, CNRS, Observatoire de Paris and École Normale Supérieure, 24 rue Lhomond, 75231 Paris Cedex 05, France
Accepted: 31 December 2007
Aims. We further characterize the structures tentatively identified on thermal and chemical grounds as the sites of dissipation of turbulence in molecular clouds (Papers I and II).
Methods. Our study is based on two-point statistics of line centroid velocities (CV), computed from three large 12CO maps of two fields. We build the probability density functions (PDF) of the CO line centroid velocity increments (CVI) over lags varying by an order of magnitude. Structure functions of the line CV are computed up to the 6th order. We compare these statistical properties in two translucent parsec-scale fields embedded in different large-scale environments, one far from virial balance and the other virialized. We also address their scale dependence in the former, more turbulent, field.
Results. The statistical properties of the line CV bear the three signatures of intermittency in a turbulent velocity field: (1) the non-Gaussian tails in the CVI PDF grow as the lag decreases, (2) the departure from Kolmogorov scaling of the high-order structure functions is more pronounced in the more turbulent field, (3) the positions contributing to the CVI PDF tails delineate narrow filamentary structures (thickness ~0.02 pc), uncorrelated to dense gas structures and spatially coherent with thicker ones (~0.18 pc) observed on larger scales. We show that the largest CVI trace sharp variations of the extreme CO linewings and that they actually capture properties of the underlying velocity field, uncontaminated by density fluctuations. The confrontation with theoretical predictions leads us to identify these small-scale filamentary structures with extrema of velocity-shears. We estimate that viscous dissipation at the 0.02 pc-scale in these structures is up to 10 times higher than average, consistent with their being associated with gas warmer than the bulk. Last, their average direction is parallel (or close) to that of the local magnetic field projection.
Conclusions. Turbulence in these translucent fields exhibits the statistical and structural signatures of small-scale and inertial-range intermittency. The more turbulent field on the 30 pc-scale is also the more intermittent on small scales. The small-scale intermittent structures coincide with those formerly identified as sites of enhanced dissipation. They are organized into parsec-scale coherent structures, coupling a broad range of scales.
Key words: ISM: clouds / ISM: magnetic fields / ISM: kinematics and dynamics / turbulence
© ESO, 2008