Volume 567, July 2014
|Number of page(s)||17|
|Section||Interstellar and circumstellar matter|
|Published online||10 July 2014|
The interstellar cloud surrounding the Sun: a new perspective
1 Aix-Marseille Université, CNRS, LAM (Laboratoire d’Astrophysique de Marseille) UMR 7326, 13388 Marseille, France
2 Department of Astrophysical Sciences, Princeton University Observatory, Princeton NJ 08544, USA
Received: 19 December 2013
Accepted: 30 April 2014
Aims. We offer a new, simpler picture of the local interstellar medium, made of a single continuous cloud enveloping the Sun. This new outlook enables the description of a diffuse cloud from within and brings to light some unexpected properties.
Methods. We re-examine the kinematics and abundances of the local interstellar gas, as revealed by the published results for the ultraviolet absorption lines of Mg II, Fe II, and H I.
Results. In contrast to previous representations, our new picture of the local interstellar medium consists of a single, monolithic cloud that surrounds the Sun in all directions and accounts for most of the matter present in the first 50 parsecs around the Sun. The cloud fills the space around us out to about 9 pc in most directions, although its boundary is very irregular with possibly a few extensions up to 20 pc. The cloud does not behave like a rigid body: gas within the cloud is being differentially decelerated in the direction of motion, and the cloud is expanding in directions perpendicular to this flow, much like a squashed balloon. Average H I volume densities inside the cloud vary between 0.03 and 0.1 cm-3 over different directions. Metals appear to be significantly depleted onto grains, and there is a steady increase in depletion from the rear of the cloud to the apex of motion. There is no evidence that changes in the ionizing radiation influence the apparent abundances. Secondary absorption components are detected in 60% of the sight lines. Almost all of them appear to be interior to the volume occupied by the main cloud. Half of the sight lines exhibit a secondary component moving at about −7.2 km s-1 with respect to the main component, which may be the signature of a shock propagating toward the cloud’s interior.
Key words: ISM: structure / ISM: kinematics and dynamics / ISM: abundances / ISM: individual objects: Local Cloud / ISM: clouds
© ESO, 2014
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