The use of kerogen data in understanding the properties and evolution of interstellar carbonaceous dust
Sce Chimie Moléculaire, CEA Saclay, France
Accepted: 29 August 2001
A number of authors have, in the past decade, pointed to the similarity of the 3.4-μm band of kerogen with that of the Galactic Centre (GC). Kerogen is a family of solid terrestrial sedimentary materials essentially made of C, H and O interlocked in a disordered, more or less aliphatic, structure. Here, the most recent results of the astronomical literature and the rich quantitative geochemical literature are tapped with two purposes in mind: extend the analogy to the mid-IR bands and, based on these new constraints, quantitatively assess the properties of the carrier dust. It is shown that the great diversity of IR astronomical IS (interstellar) dust is paralleled by the changes in kerogen spectra as the material spontaneously and continuously evolves (aromatizes) in the earth. Since the composition and structure of kerogen are known all along its evolution, it is possible, by spectral analogy, to estimate these properties for the corresponding astronomical carriers. The Galactic Centre 3.4 μm feature is thus found to correspond to an early stage of evolution, for which the composition in C, H and O and the structure of the corresponding kerogen are known and reported here. The role of oxygen in the subsequent evolution and its contribution to different bands are stressed. The above provides new arguments in favour of the 3.4-μm band, as well as the observed accompanying mid-IR bands, being carried by kerogen-like dust born in CS (circumstellar) envelopes, mostly of AGB (asymptotic giant branch) objects. Subsequent dust evolution in composition and structure (aromatization) is fast enough that the unidentified infrared bands can already show up in well-developed planetary nebulae (PNe), as observed. A fraction of incompletely evolved dust can escape into the diffuse IS medium and molecular clouds. As a consequence, aliphatic and aromatic features can both be detected in the sky, in emission (Proto-PNe, PNe and PDRs (photo-dissociation regions)) as well as in absorption (dense molecular clouds and diffuse ISM). Changes in wavelength and band width with line of sight are explained by changes in the nature and number of chemical functional groups composing the carrier material. Predictions of the kerogen model in the UV and far IR are proposed for testing.
Key words: ISM: general / ISM: molecules / astrochemistry / galaxy: center / ISM: dust, extinction
© ESO, 2001