Volume 540, April 2012
|Number of page(s)||6|
|Section||Interstellar and circumstellar matter|
|Published online||06 April 2012|
The smoothness of the interstellar extinction curve in the UV
Comparison with recent laboratory measurements of PAH mixtures
1 Laboratory Astrophysics Group of the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy at the Friedrich Schiller University Jena, Institute of Solid State Physics, Helmholtzweg 3, 07743 Jena, Germany
e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com
2 Max Planck Institute for Polymer Research, Ackermannweg 10, 55128 Mainz, Germany
3 Max Planck Institute for Astronomy, Königstuhl 17, 69117 Heidelberg, Germany
Received: 9 December 2011
Accepted: 5 March 2012
Context. As revealed by high-resolution spectral investigations in the wavelength range between 300 and 400 nm, the interstellar extinction curve does not display any of the sharp electronic absorption bands that are characteristic for large polyatomic molecules, such as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), which belong to the most abundant interstellar molecules.
Aims. We aim to verify whether the absorption curves of mixtures of medium-sized PAHs produced in the laboratory can explain the astronomical observations.
Methods. The PAH mixtures were synthesized by infrared laser pyrolysis and subsequent chemical extraction and size separation. The matrix isolation technique was used to study the absorption spectra of isolated molecules at low temperature.
Results. Our experimental results demonstrate that the UV-visible absorption curves of PAH mixtures can be very smooth, displaying no sharp bands, if the molecular diversity is sufficiently high.
Conclusions. In view of the absence of sharp electronic features on the interstellar extinction curve for 300 < λ < 400 nm, we conclude from our experimental findings that the interstellar PAH population must be very diverse. The low fractional abundances of individual species prevent their detection on the basis of spectral fingerprints in the UV.
Key words: astrochemistry / molecular data / methods: laboratory / local insterstellar matter / ISM: lines and bands / ISM: molecules
© ESO, 2012
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