A simple approach to CO cooling in molecular clouds
School of Physics and Astronomy, Cardiff University,
CF24 3AA, UK
Accepted: 14 December 2017
Carbon monoxide plays an important role in interstellar molecular clouds, both as a coolant, and as a diagnostic molecule. However, a proper evaluation of the cooling rate due to CO requires a determination of the populations of many levels, the spontaneous and stimulated radiative de-excitation rates between these levels, and the transfer of the emitted multi-line radiation; additionally, this must be done for three isotopologues. It would be useful to have a simple analytic formulation that avoided these complications and the associated computational overhead; this could then be used in situations where CO plays an important role as a coolant, but the details of this role are not the main concern. We derive such a formulation here, by first considering the two asymptotic forms that obtain in the limits of (a) low volume-density and optical depth, and (b) high volume-density and optical depth. These forms are then combined in such a way as to fit the detailed numerical results from Goldsmith & Langer (1978, ApJ, 222, 881; hereafter GL78). The GL78 results cover low temperatures, and a range of physical conditions where the interplay of thermal and sub-thermal excitation, optical-depth effects, and the contributions from rare isotopologues, are all important. The fit is obtained using the Metropolis-Hastings method, and reproduces the results of GL78 well. It is a purely local and analytic function of state — specifically a function of the density, ρ, isothermal sound speed, a, CO abundance, XCO, and velocity divergence, ∇⋅υ. As an illustration of its use, we consider the cooling layer following a slow steady non-magnetic planar J-shock. We show that, in this idealised configuration, if the post-shock cooling is dominated by CO and its isotopologues, the thickness of the post-shock cooling layer is very small and approximately independent of the pre-shock velocity, υo, or pre-shock isothermal sound speed, ao.
Key words: hydrodynamics / molecular processes / radiation mechanisms: thermal / shock waves / ISM: clouds
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