The ionization fraction gradient across the Horsehead edge: an archetype for molecular clouds*
Laboratorio de Astrofísica Molecular. Centro de Astrobiología. CSIC-INTA. Carretera de Ajalvir, Km 4. Torrejón de Ardoz, 28850 Madrid, Spain e-mail: email@example.com
2 IRAM, 300 rue de la Piscine, 38406 Grenoble Cedex, France e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
3 LERMA - LRA, UMR 8112, CNRS, Observatoire de Paris and École Normale Supérieure, 24 rue Lhomond, 75231 Paris, France e-mail: email@example.com
4 Laboratoire d'Astrophysique, Observatoire de Grenoble, BP 53, 38041 Grenoble Cedex 09, France e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
5 LUTH, UMR 8102 CNRS, Université Paris 7 and Observatoire de Paris, Place J. Janssen, 92195 Meudon, France e-mail: Jacques.Lebourlot@obspm.fr
Accepted: 11 February 2009
Context. The ionization fraction (i.e., the electron abundance) plays a key role in the chemistry and dynamics of molecular clouds.
Aims. We study the H13CO+, DCO+ and HOC+ line emission towards the Horsehead, from the shielded core to the UV irradiated cloud edge, i.e., the photodissociation region (PDR), as a template to investigate the ionization fraction gradient in molecular clouds.
Methods. We analyze an IRAM Plateau de Bure Interferometer map of the H13CO+ –0 line at a resolution, complemented with IRAM-30 m H13CO+ and DCO+ higher-J line maps and new HOC+ and CO+ observations. We compare self-consistently the observed spatial distribution and line intensities with detailed depth-dependent predictions of a PDR model coupled with a nonlocal radiative transfer calculation. The chemical network includes deuterated species, 13C fractionation reactions and HCO+/HOC+ isomerization reactions. The role of neutral and charged PAHs in the cloud chemistry and ionization balance is investigated.
Results. The detection of the HOC+ reactive ion towards the Horsehead PDR proves the high ionization fraction of the outer UV irradiated regions, where we derive a low [ HCO+] /[ HOC+] 75–200 abundance ratio. In the absence of PAHs, we reproduce the observations with gas-phase metal abundances, [Fe+Mg+...], lower than (with respect to H), and a cosmic-ray ionization rate of s-1. The inclusion of PAHs modifies the ionization fraction gradient and increases the required metal abundance.
Conclusions. The ionization fraction in the Horsehead edge follows a steep gradient, with a scale length of ~0.05 pc (or ~25''), from [ e-] 10-4 (or –5 cm-3) in the PDR to a few times ~10-9 in the core. PAH- anions play a role in the charge balance of the cold and neutral gas if substantial amounts of free PAHs are present ().
Key words: astrochemistry / ISM: clouds / radiative transfer / radio lines: ISM / ISM: molecules / ISM: abundances
© ESO, 2009