Volume 575, March 2015
|Number of page(s)||4|
|Published online||20 February 2015|
Neutral chlorine and molecular hydrogen at high redshift
1 Ioffe Physical-Technical Institute of RAS Polyteknicheskaya 26 194021 Saint-Petersburg Russia
2 St.-Petersburg Polytechnic University, Polyteknicheskaya 29, 195251 Saint-Petersburg, Russia
3 Institut d’Astrophysique de Paris, CNRS-UPMC, UMR7095, 98bis Bd Arago, 75014 Paris, France
4 European Southern Observatory, Alonso de Córdova 3107, Vitacura, Casilla 19001, Santiago 19, Chile
5 Inter-University Centre for Astronomy and Astrophysics, Post Bag 4, Ganeshkhind, 411 007 Pune, India
Received: 19 December 2014
Accepted: 28 January 2015
Chlorine and molecular hydrogen are known to be tightly linked together in the cold phase of the local interstellar medium through rapid chemical reactions. We present here the first systematic study of this relation at high redshifts using H2-bearing damped Lyα systems (DLAs) detected along quasar lines of sight. Using high-resolution spectroscopic data from VLT/UVES and Keck/HIRES, we report the detection of Cl i in 9 DLAs (including five new detections) out of 18 high-z DLAs with N(H2) ≥ 1017.3 cm-2 (including a new H2 detection at z = 3.09145 towards J 2100−0641) and present upper limits for the remaining 9 systems. We find a ~5σ correlation between N(Cl i) and N(H2) with only ~0.2 dex dispersion over the range 18.1 < log N(H2) < 20.1, thus probing column densities 10 times lower than those seen towards nearby stars, roughly following the relation N(Cl i)≈ 1.5 × 10-6 × N(H2). This relation between column densities is surprisingly the same at low and high redshift suggesting that the physical and chemical conditions are similar for a given H2 (or Cl i) column density. In turn, the N(Cl i) /N(H2) ratio is found to be uncorrelated with the overall metallicity in the DLA. Our results confirm that neutral chlorine is an excellent tracer of molecule-rich gas and show that the molecular fraction and/or metallicity in the H2-bearing component of DLA could possibly be much higher than the line-of-sight average values usually measured in DLAs.
Key words: cosmology: observations / ISM: clouds / quasars: absorption lines
© ESO, 2015
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