The N2D+/N2H+ ratio as an evolutionary tracer of Class 0 protostars*
Universität zu Köln, Zülpicher Str. 77, 50937 Cologne, Germany e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
2 School of Physics and Astronomy, University of Leeds, Leeds LS2 9JT, UK
Accepted: 16 September 2008
Context. Deuterated ions, especially H2D+ and N2D+, are abundant in cold (~10 K), dense (~105 cm-3) regions, in which CO is frozen out onto dust grains. In such environments, the N2D+/N2H+ ratio can exceed the elemental abundance ratio of D/H by a factor of 104.
Aims. We use deuterium fractionation to investigate the evolutionary state of Class 0 protostars. In particular, we expect the N2D+/N2H+ ratio to decrease as temperature (a sign of the evolution of the protostar) increases.
Methods. We observed N2H+ 1-0, N2D+ 1-0, 2-1 and 3-2, C18O 1-0 and HCO+ 3-2 in a sample of 20 Class 0 and borderline Class 0/I protostars. We determined the deuteration fraction and searched for correlations between the N2D+/N2H+ ratio and well-established evolutionary tracers, such as TDust and the CO depletion factor. In addition, we compared the observational result with a chemical model.
Results. In our protostellar sample, the N2H+ 1-0 optical depths are significantly lower than those found in prestellar cores, but the N2H+ column densities are comparable, which can be explained by the higher temperature and larger line width in protostellar cores. The deuterium fractionation of N2H+ in protostellar cores is also similar to that in prestellar cores. We found a clear correlation between the N2D+/N2H+ ratio and evolutionary tracers. As expected, the coolest, i.e. the youngest, objects show the largest deuterium fractionation. Furthermore, we find that sources with a high N2D+/N2H+ ratio show clear indications of infall (e.g. < 0). With decreasing deuterium fraction, the infall signature disappears and tends to be positive for the most evolved objects. The deuterium fractionation of other molecules deviates clearly from that of N2H+. The DCO+/HCO+ ratio stays low at all evolutionary stages, whereas the NH2D/NH3 ratio is >0.15 even in the most evolved objects.
Conclusions. The N2D+/N2H+ ratio is known to trace the evolution of prestellar cores. We show that this ratio can be used to trace core evolution even after star formation. Protostars with an N2D+/N2H+ ratio above 0.15 are in a stage shortly after the beginning of collapse. Later on, deuterium fractionation decreases until it reaches a value of ~0.03 at the Class 0/I borderline.
Key words: ISM: clouds / ISM: evolution / ISM: molecules / stars: formation
© ESO, 2008